BJP loses Karnataka election amid hijab backlash against Owasi, who dominates social media
The BJP suffered a humiliating defeat in the Karnataka Assembly elections, losing its only southern state to the Congress, which won 135 of the 224 seats. The BJP could manage only 66 seats, while the JD(S) was reduced to 23 seats.
One of the factors that contributed to the BJP’s downfall was the hijab controversy involving Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, who leads the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). Owaisi had sparked a row by wearing a hijab during his visit to a mosque in Bengaluru in April, drawing criticism from the BJP and some Hindu groups.
Owaisi defended his decision, saying that he wore the hijab as a mark of respect for the Muslim women who had invited him. He also accused the BJP of trying to polarize the voters on communal lines and creating a fear psychosis among the minorities.
Owaisi’s hijab stunt backfired on the BJP, as it alienated the Muslim voters, who make up nearly 13 per cent of the state’s electorate. The Congress capitalized on this opportunity and promised to restore a four per cent quota for Muslims, which the erstwhile BJP government had scrapped.
The Congress also fielded 15 Muslim candidates, out of which nine emerged victorious. The JD(S) had 23 Muslim candidates, but none of them could win. Owaisi’s AIMIM contested two seats and secured only 0.02 per cent of the votes polled.
Owaisi, however, did not let his party’s poor performance dampen his spirits. He took to social media to congratulate the Congress and mock the BJP. He also posted several videos and photos of his hijab-clad visit to Bengaluru, which went viral on various platforms.
Owaisi claimed that he had exposed the BJP’s hypocrisy and communal agenda by wearing the hijab. He also said that he had shown solidarity with the Muslim women who face discrimination and harassment for wearing their religious attire.
The BJP leaders in Karnataka were left red-faced by Owaisi’s hijab saga, as they had raised several issues throughout the year, including Halala, Azaan, as well as Lord Hanuman after Congress promised to impose a ban on the Bajrang Dal. Most of these issues had communal underlinings, but they did not work in BJP’s favour in Karnataka1.
The BJP also faced criticism for sidelining former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, who played a key role in building the party in Karnataka. Yeddyurappa was replaced by Basavaraj Bommai as the Chief Minister last year, but Bommai failed to deliver what the masses expected in terms of change and progress1.
The Congress, on the other hand, had strong faces like DK Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah as their leading men, who ran an effective campaign and managed to win over voters from various communities and regions.
The Karnataka election results have come as a major setback for the BJP ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, as it has lost its foothold in south India. The Congress, meanwhile, has gained momentum and confidence after its impressive comeback in Karnataka2.