Splitsvilla in BJP!

Pankaj Sharma/Zee Research Group

BS Yeddyurappa, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) first chief minister in southern India, has decided to embark on a new political journey come December 2012. Moreover, brewing more trouble for the state government, Yeddyurappa has threatened Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar of “consequences” if he continues on taking “unilateral decisions”. While breakaway factions launching their own parties aren’t uncommon in Indian politics, including in the Congress and the BJP, the latter is more prone to such tendencies this year.

But, as they say, ‘breakaway’ factions might not always change the ground situation dramatically. Yeddyurappa though would like to think otherwise. First, a look at what has hit BJP in the recent past: a Zee Research Group (ZRG) study reveals that the BJP has experienced four breakaways this year; the Congress has managed to stay rather intact.

In the BJP, preceding Yeddyurappa is the former chief minister of Gujarat, Keshubhai Patel who in August 2012 launched ‘Gujarat Parivartan Party’ to take on Narendra Modi in the upcoming state Assembly Elections. Even before Patel, Jagdish Mamgain in Delhi and some dissident leaders in Himachal Pradesh led by former chief minister Shanta Kumar have launched their own outfits in early 2012.

Even though pollsters are betting on the BJP in both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the growing dissent and dissidents in the saffron rank and file may play party pooper.

Psephologist GVL Narsimha Rao believes barring Yeddyurappa, BJP is not concerned about any rebellion. He says, “In the past, many senior leaders including Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti have broken away but no one could really hurt the party. However, Yeddyurappa’s case is different from others. He is a mass leader and his departure could really cause serious damage to the BJP.”

Rao has also outrightly rejected Keshubhai factor in Gujarat polls. “Keshubhai Patel has been sleeping for the past 11 years and came back from nowhere. People today perceive him as inefficient and greedy.”

Senior journalist and political analyst, Swapan Dasgupta too raises this issue in his recent blog, “The removal of mass leader Kalyan Singh led to the steady decline of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh after 1999; the attempt to ‘punish’ Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan triggered a grassroots revolt; and the recent bid to oust Yeddyurappa from the party may well witness the complete decimation of the Karnataka BJP. Regardless of its self-image as an ideological movement, the reality is that the BJP is as much dependant on a leader as other parties.”

For Congress, while the current year hasn’t seen any rebellion with core leadership at the centre and states intact, the grand old party suffered two major blows in 2011. In Andhra Pradesh, Y S Jaganmohan Reddy after leaving the Congress has several times put the state leadership on the mat. In Pondicherry, N. Rangaswamy formed the government with his own party in the union territory within three months of leaving the Congress.

But the key question is how many of these rebellions can alter the dynamics of their parent parties in 2014?

“The broke away leaders can certainly gain some momentum in local elections if they have a good vote bank but in Lok Sabha elections in which several electorate vote, they are a non-factor” Rao stressed.

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