Yeddyurappa stays in BJP, but for how long?

Updated: May 25, 2012, 11:48 AM IST

Ritesh K Srivastava

The BJP central leadership is smiling at the moment and thousands of its workers in Karnataka are happy that their beloved leader BS Yeddyurappa is not deserting them, at least, not for the time being. Thanks to the excellent negotiation skills of Arun Jaitley and some of its other top rung leaders, the BJP has averted a major crisis - a possible spilt in its southern stronghold.

By placating Yeddyurappa, the BJP high command has surely staved off a political tsunami in form of a rebellion by one of its tallest leaders, who is credited to have built the party from the grass-root level, especially in south.

The BJP strongman in Karnataka, who has renewed attack on the incumbent Chief Minister DV Sadananda Gowda and pitched for his re-instatement as chief minister, has made peace with the party high command as of now.

Though the top BJP leaders are heaving a sigh of relief as defiant Yeddyurappa has agreed to toe the party line, deep inside their hearts they know that this peace will not last long. The question which is troubling the party high command at this juncture is - How long will the party be able to control Yeddyurappa?

How long can the saffron leadership rejoice that it has overridden the severe turbulence faced by the party in Karnataka? However what is even more pertinent at the moment is why, despite BJP high command’s refusal to accept his demands, Yeddyurappa changed his mood? No one at present knows what is weaving in the mind of the Lingayat leader and what would be his next game plan to fulfill his chief ministerial ambition.

A careful analysis of the situation suggests that despite his repeated threats to quit, poor Yeddyurappa had limited options in the present situation. Had he precipitated the crisis in a rush of blood and impatience and forced a snap poll, he would have taken a big risk as the CBI has tightened its noose against him over his alleged role in the state’s illegal mining scam.

The fact that BSY decided to suspend its agitation is a well calibrated move as he is aware of the consequences of deserting the party at a time when he is facing a CBI inquiry and his popularity has been bogged down with the allegations of corruption.

So, is it the end of a mass leader like Yeddyurappa, who was once the face of BJP and has now become its biggest liability? Surely no one but Yeddyurappa is himself to be blamed for the hardship which he is facing in his four-decade long political career.

It is sad that despite his party’s sweeping victory in the last Assembly election, he failed to earn a good name for himself. Instead of taking BJP to unparallel heights, he got mired into controversies and his office conducted gross irregularities in cases related to denotification of government lands, renewing mining leases etc.

Trouble for the Lingayat community leader started last year when the state’s Lokayukta N Santosh Hedge indicted him, mining barons Reddy brothers and various others in the illegal mining scam and recommended their prosecution under Prevention of Corruption Act.

In view of Hegde’s explosive report, the BJP high command then asked Yeddyurappa to step down paving way for another leader and come clean on allegations of corruption.

BSY, though he agreed, flexed his muscles with the party high command for anointing his handpicked DV Sadananda Gowda as his successor with a promise that he will comeback in six months as chief minister. But Gowda refused to do so and this triggered a bitter war of words between the two.

He now brands Gowda as a ‘traitor’ and ‘opportunist’ who failed to fulfilled his promise to vacate the CM’s post six months after his swearing-in. Ignored by his party and betrayed by his close aide, Yeddyurappa locked himself in an intense battle with the BJP central leadership for not ‘protecting’ and rewarding him for his services and loyalty.

The intense power struggle in Karnataka virtually spilt the saffron party in two camps - the one siding with BSY and the other willing to toe the BJP high command’s line. The widening rift between the two camps has left the BJP high command groping in the dark in search of a perfect formula, which can pacify a defiant Yeddyurappa and save the party’s reputation in its southern stronghold.

However, with both sides accusing each other and the Yeddyurappa camp not willing to accept anything less than a chief minister’s post for their ‘beloved’ leader, the crisis in the BJP does not appear to be dying down anytime soon.

There remains no doubt that despite controversies BSY still remains the BJP’s blue-eyed boy and it can’t simply let him go especially in view Assembly elections due next year.

What has further troubled the BJP top brass is the speculation that after being ignored by his party in times of his personal crisis, he may quit in future or float his own party to fulfill his political ambition. Considering Yeddyurappa’s immense popularity and his stature as the biggest leader of the powerful Lingayat community, the BJP top brass surely has valid reasons to worry.

Though, Yeddyurappa’s stars are not favouring him at the moment, he is the man who built the party from scratch and established its first government down South. It is true that BSY is passing though the most difficult phase of his career and his exit from the party can further spell doom for BJP’s existence in Karnataka.

By praising Congress and its chief Sonia Gandhi for being very supportive of their tainted leaders, BSY has already hinted that other options are also on table. Justifying the political crisis in the state, Yeddyurappa has accused Gowda of insulting those MLAs and MPs who are close to him.

What has further fuelled this power struggle is a ‘secret’ letter reportedly shot off by Gowda and state unit chief KS Eshwarappa to the party chief Nitin Gadkari, accusing Yeddyurappa loyalist MLAs of indulging in anti-party activities and lack of cooperation in governance. The gross insult of his close confidantes by the chief minister has fuelled Yeddyurappa’s ire and there are slim chances of reconciliation between the two warring factions.

If the political analysts are to be believed, Yeddyurappa would not like to be sidelined in his own party and treated secondary to Gowda. If the rift between the two sides reaches irresolvable levels, BSY would not mind raising a revolt and parading his loyalists in a show of strength before the central leadership - a thing which he has done in past.

Although the din seems to have died down in Karnataka for now, it has exposed the inability of the BJP central leadership to handle such situations. The BJP leadership is fully aware that in case Yeddyurappa quits, a lot of BJP MLAs and his close associates would also desert the party bringing the Gowda government in minority. And if this happens, the ensuing situation would offer Congress and JD-S a golden opportunity to stake claim to form the next government, which would be another embarrassment for the BJP.

But in any case, the BJP top brass can’t succumb to Yeddyurappa’s constant blackmail and neither can it afford to lose him. It knows that embracing or rejecting Yeddyurappa both will harm the BJP and weaken its stand against corruption and render meaningless its campaign against the scam-tainted UPA government.

Whichever way things unfold, it is unfortunate that the two are faced with such a situation. Like Yeddyurappa, the BJP too stands at crossroads – if it honours him, it will face criticism for surrendering to an individual’s blackmail; and if it refuses to entertain him, he could split the BJP and bring down its strongest bastion.

As a possible compromise, the party high command could give space to more BSY loyalists in the Gowda cabinet in order to maintain equilibrium in the state unit. There is also a possibility that the party may appoint Rural Development Minister Jagadish Shettar, who belongs to the Lingayat community, as the new CM.

Interestingly, Shettar is the man who was defeated by the Yeddyurappa camp in the election held to choose a legislature party leader in August last year, which Gowda won.

Whatever one may say factionalism and infighting in the party and its inability to handle crisis situations has surely dented the BJP’s reputation, hurt its electoral prospects, disillusioned its voters and made a mockery of its claim of being a party with a difference.

For Yeddyurappa, the revered Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur has blessed him this time but it is yet to be seen whether divine intervention will help him in future too.