Can BJP retain Karnataka without BSY?
Ritesh K Srivastava
Once a politician, always a politician - this catchphrase best suits BJP’s mercurial leader, who embarked on a new political journey by floating his ‘Karnataka Janata Party’ (KJP) on December 9, after snapping his 40-year-old ties with BJP.
Yeddyurappa, a hardboiled politician from the RSS stable, was till recently the BJP`s biggest face in Karnataka and served the party on almost all positions - as state unit president, MLC, Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Deputy Chief Minister and eventually as CM.
However, he developed serious differences with the BJP high command after it asked him to quit as the Chief Minister in the wake of allegations of abetting illegal mining in Karnataka and later refused to reinstate him on the coveted post.
Since then, the Lingayat leader made several attempts to become the chief minister and even bargained for the post of the state unit president.
However, his concerted attempts to regain power were stonewalled by the BJP top brass and he finally decided to end his four-decade-old association with the party.
Yeddyurappa himself gave an indication in this regard after the failure of Arun Jaitley’s highly secretive trouble-shooting mission aimed at persuading the Lingayat strongman to reconsider his decision to bid adieu to BJP.
BSY, as he is popularly known, accuses BJP of backstabbing him and not rewarding him for decades of his service to the saffron party.
He claims that he has not quit BJP out of vengeance but to pursue his dream of making Karnataka a progressive state.
With the grand style launching of KJP, BSY has proved his undisputable political weight in the Karnataka politics and his stature as the tallest leader of the powerful Lingayat community here.
Though BSY has assured that he will not topple the current Jagadish Shettar government in Karnataka and allow it to complete its remaining term, KJP’s launch has made the BJP central leadership worried about the party’s future in Karnataka.
BJP top brass has attempted to downplay that Yeddyurappa’s departure will have an impact on its poll prospects, it is also aware that it would be a difficult task for the party to retain power in Karnataka without its tallest leader.
For BJP, which is already grappling with controversies surrounding its beleaguered president Nitin Gadkari and his reported faceoff with Gujarat’s hardline Chief Minister Narendra Modi and its failing anti-UPA campaign, the KJP can further disturb the caste-equations in its southern bastion.
The biggest challenge for the BJP central leadership will be to keep the party intact and prevent further defections since several party legislators owe allegiance to Yeddyurappa and may eventually join the KJP.
Yeddyurappa virtually shut the doors of negotiations after the party high command expelled his close aide and former Union minister V Dhananjay Kumar on grounds of his anti-party activities. BSY later rewarded Kumar by giving him a plum post in the newly-floated KJP, in a further jolt to the BJP leadership.
Trained in the RSS ideology, Yeddyurappa is a master politician, who slowly rose through the ranks to become Chief Minister in 2008 - a year that saw the installation of the first ever BJP government in the South.
The 70-year-old temperamental leader began his political career as Shikaripura Taluk president in 1972 as a member of the Jan Sangh - the founding body of of BJP.
BSY’s influence on the powerful Lingayat community, his political acumen, down to earth approach, leadership skills and his equation with the party’s central leadership helped him in his elevation to the Chief Minister’s post in 2008.
These traits will be again put to the test after his bitter spilt with BJP since the state has never been hospitable to regional parties.
Yeddyurappa exhibited his manipulative political skills when he joined hands with Janata Dal-Secular in 2006 and toppled its coalition government with Congress.
With BJP`s support, JD-S leader HD Kumarasamy was then appointed Chief Minister, but when he refused to respect the power-sharing deal, the BJP withdrew its support bringing down his government.
The betrayal from JD-S earned people’s sympathy for Yeddyurappa and eventually helped him become the Chief Minister in the 2008 Assembly Elections.
As the chief minister of Karnataka, Yeddyurappa`s term was turbulent as he faced many internal revolts, including the one by the powerful Reddy brothers, the mining barons from Bellary district, who nearly brought down his government.
However, BSY managed to stabilise the shaky BJP government by launching `Operation Lotus` to wean away opposition MLAs who quit their membership and sought re-election on a BJP ticket.
Yeddyurappa is strongly backed by the mutts and pontiffs of the Lingayat community and its members spread across the state. The Lingayats had identified themselves with the BJP because of Yeddyurappa.
The party has decided to contest the upcoming Assembly Elections under the collective leadership involving Jagdish Shettar (Lingayat), K Eshwarappa (Kuruba), HN Ananth Kumar (Brahmin), R Ashoka (Vokkaliga) and Govind M Karjol (Dalit). But with Yeddyurappa`s exit from the party, the BJP`s prospects in the next elections have certainly weakened.
After splitting from BJP, Yeddyurappa too faces a daunting task of preparing the ground for his newly launched political outfit and win popular support to become Chief Minister of Karnataka again - a dream which remains unfulfilled even after his name was cleared of corruption charge.
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