A.H. Vishwanath, BJP leader in Karnataka, breaks ranks with the party to heap praise on Tipu Sultan

Published : August 29, 2020 11:39 IST

An 18th century painting of Tipu Sultan at the British Library, London. Photo: DEA PICTURE LIBRARY

A.H. Vishwanath. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

A.H. Vishwanth, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Member of Legislative Counil has shocked the party by heaping praise Tipu Sultan, the 18th-century Mysore ruler. Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru on August 26, Vishwanath, who crossed over to the saffron party from the Janata Dal (Secular) last year, referred to Tipu as the tiger of Mysore, a brave revolutionary and a son of the soil who cannot be “restricted to one caste or community.”

The BJP strongly opposes the popular and widespread recognition of Tipu Sultan as a freedom fighter and accuses the Muslim ruler of being a religious bigot who forcefully converted Hindus to Islam. The party also aggressively opposes the celebration of Tipu Jayanti, a practice begun during former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s tenure. As soon as B.S. Yediyurappa was sworn in as Chief Minister last year, the first decision he took was to discontinue the celebration. Last year, the BJP also suggested that school history textbooks in the State should be rewritten by blanking out certain events of the second half of the 18th century in Mysore when Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali ruled most of the region of modern Karnataka.

Vishwanath was one of the group of 17 Congress and JD(S) MLAs who walked out of the coalition last year, leading to the collapse of the State government headed by H.D. Kumaraswamy. As someone who had been staunchly secular in his long political career, his decision to join the saffron party was seen as highly opportunistic. Vishwanath was also one of the two MLAs who could not win in the subsequent byelections after the MLAs were disqualified by the Speaker. “Rehabilitated” as an MLC in July, he has been aggressively lobbying for a ministerial post on the basis of his seniority. “I will not request the Chief Minister to make me a Minister. I am one of the senior-most politicians in the State and the Chief Minister should give me a ministerial position based on this,” he said.

The State unit of the BJP has distanced itself from Vishwanath’s comments, calling it the “personal view of the MLC, which has nothing to do with the official position of the party”. Captain Ganesh Karnik, the spokesperson of the party, said: “Tipu was a bigot and converted Hindus forcefully in Kodagu.” Congress leaders, on the other hand, have endorsed Vishwanath’s statement.

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