Pramod Muthalik, the controversial chief of Sri Rama Sene linked with the attack on women at a pub in Mangalore in 2009, joined the BJP here today, drawing a sharp reaction from Congress which said the saffron party stood exposed on the issue of women's rights.
Muthalik was welcomed into the party fold in the presence of state party president Prahalad Joshi, former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar and former Deputy Chief Minister K S Eshwarappa at a function here. Muthalik later told reporters that he joined BJP with the objective of ensuring that Narendra Modi becomes the next Prime Minister.
He had shot into limelight after activists of his right-wing outfit had barged into the pub in Mangalore in 2009 and assaulted youngsters — women and men — after accusing them of behaving in an "obscene manner".
Muthalik, who was arrest after the incident, had claimed that their actions were "aimed at protecting the women". The then Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa had said the Ram Sena had "nothing to do" with BJP or the Sangh parivar. Muthalik has had a love-hate relation with BJP, which was evident when the saffron party had accused him of misusing Modi's name for raising funds. He joined RSS in 1975 and Shiv Sena in 2005, but left the latter in 2006. This is the first time he is officially being associated with the party.
BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders feel Muthalik's entry into the party can tilt the scales, especially in Belgaum, as people divided on the basis of mother tongues Kannada and Marathi, could come together under the Hindutva plank. BJP leaders also feel his entry will benefit the party in other parts of the district and neighbouring districts.
The hardcore Hindutva leader is facing several cases, including one relating to promoting enmity between two communities.
Congress slammed BJP's move saying that its leaders, including Sushma Swaraj have been talking about women's empowerment but their party was now "glaringly opposing women's emancipation".
Party leader Ambika Soni said people should send a firm message in the coming election that "any party which honours, appeases people who publicly violate the self respect and dignity of women are not going to be tolerated". "You can see this is height of opportunism and I think that women across the country should take a very decisive call on this."