BS Yeddyurappa or the man who had led the BJP to victory in Karnataka in 2008, helping it to form its first government in the South, left the party in December 2012 after 40 years. He was indicted by the state Lokayukta of corruption and nepotism. Subsequently, he resigned as the CM, did a stint in jail and later left his parent party after much bitterness and finally formed his own party - the Karnataka Janata Party. Needless to say, even with the taint of corruption over him, BSY’s leaving the BJP was a big blow to the party as he was and remains one of the most popular leaders of the Lingayat community which are traditionally seen to vote as a block.
Also, in a setback to the BJP, couple of its leaders like Belur Gopalakrishna, Shashil Namoshi, Manappa Vajjal and Raju Gowda joined the JD(S) after feeling left out in ticket distribution.
Meanwhile, the Congress, though feeling upbeat after reports indicate that it is set to form the next government in the southern state, is reeling under its own problems of rebellion and dissidence. One of the glaring examples is the much publicized battle for Srirangapatna ticket in Mandya district between former union minister SM Krishna and Union Minister and actor MH Ambareesh. The Congress high command finally buckled under pressure from Ambareesh, who had refused to file his nomination papers from Mandya and replaced Srirangapatna`s candidate Ravindra Srikantaiah, who was SM Krishna`s nominee with SL Lingaraju, an Ambareesh supporter.
In more headaches for the Congress, former minister and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee vice-president A Krishnappa declared that he was leaving the party to join the Janata Dal (Secular) chief HD Deve Gowda as he was angry at the decision to field Bhyrati Basavaraju in KR Puram. Meanwhile, G Padmavathi, three-time BBMP councillor, is contesting as a rebel candidate from Rajajinagar as she was angry with the Congress decision to give ticket to the Karnataka Mahila Congress president Manjula Naidu.
The BJP could have done without this one – The porn scandal which rocked the Karnataka Assembly on February last year when three of its ministers, Laxman Savadi, CC Patil and Krishna Palemar, were caught on camera watching sleazy clippings on their mobile phone in the House. The Opposition Congress and JDS members sought suspension and disqualification of the ministers involved and subsequently the then chief minister DV Sadananda Gowda removed them from the Cabinet. However, the damage had been done with the episode denting the party’s image and leaving the people of the state shocked.
Another episode which embarrassed the BJP was the resignation of Food and civil supplies minister Haratalu Halappa in 2010, when BS Yeddyurappa was the CM, following a report in a Kannada daily that he had allegedly sexually assaulted a friend`s wife in Shimoga. The Congress and the Janata Dal (S) seized the opportunity to hit out at the BJP and Halappa saying that it was a political conspiracy hatched by his opponents did not really have any takers.
Five years back Karnataka made headlines because the BJP had managed to win the state in the 2008 Assembly polls – it was the national party’s first government in the South. However, five years down the line, the BJP as well as the state have become synonyms with corruption – not because of its people but the political class.
For a state whose former chief minister – BS Yeddyurappa (who has now quit the ruling BJP and formed his own Karnataka Janata Party or the KJP) – was accused and indicted for large-scale corruption during his tenure, whose ministers - G Janardhana Reddy and G Karunakara Reddy, better known as Reddy brothers of Bellary - were sent to jail for masterminding one of the biggest scams and looting the natural resources to an unimaginable scale (illegal mining scam), corruption seems to have become a way of life.
The vast iron ore resources and the realty boom in the state, especially IT hub Bangalore, have all given birth to a political class that has institutionalised corruption turning the issue into a non-issue, and people too appear to have come to terms with the malice and accepted it as a political practice. When former prime minister and JD(S) leader HD Deve Gowda recently said, “corruption was not an issue in the Karnataka polls,” he was only stating the obvious.
Many contest the allegations against the BJP were politically motivated and no one questioned the motives of the previous Congress government. However, there are still others who believe that the situation has gotten worse during the BJP regime and has brought disrepute to the state’s name.
In the latest twist, Yeddyurappa’s KJP accused BJP veteran LK Advani of taking money from the former chief minister to let him continue as the head of the state government at the time when he was facing corruption charges.
To salvage whatever it can, the ruling BJP has asked for ‘forgiveness’ from the state’s voters, with Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar stating, “Those who gave us a bad name have left the party.”
What corruption is to Karnataka, illegal mining is to Bellary. The plundering of natural wealth in the state, especially in Bellary by the then state ministers G Karunakara Reddy and G Janardhana Reddy, has put the district’s name on the national map.
As per an investigation by the Karnataka Lokayukta (Santosh Hegde), illegal mining has caused the state a loss to the tune of Rs 16,000 crores. Involved in this loot of iron ore were firms like the Obulapuram Mining Company owned by the Reddy brothers. The Reddys are accused of mining iron ore while paying miniscule royalty to the state government. These companies have also been accused of environmental exploitation and having least regard for the nature. The duo was also accused of floating companies that acted as a front for their illegal mining operations. The probe by the Lokayukta had found that the illegal export of ore had jumped from 53,55,660 metric tonnes in 2008-09 to 1,27,99,396 metric tonnes in 2009-10.
Illegal mining in the state was banned by the Supreme Court some two years ago and many leaders from the BJP, Congress and JD(S) are under scrutiny. In fact, while the Reddy brothers are behind the bars in the case, former CM, BS Yeddyurappa is out on anticipatory bail. The SC had recently lifted the ban on mining in Karnataka partially while providing no relief to the Reddy brothers.
The issue is expected to play a major role in the coming polls as it not only involves corruption but exploiting state’s natural resources for the benefit of a very select group of people.
Anti-incumbency and lack of governance
BJP in all likelihood may lose the first state in south where it came to power in 2008 as most of the reports, trends and surveys indicate a strong anti-incumbency factor in Karnataka. The party, which was upbeat after Narendra Modi-led BJP came back to power in Gujarat in December last year, may see a reversal of fortunes in the southern state with the Congress in all likelihood set to form the next government.
According to a recent survey, the Congress is projected to get a simple majority in the 224-member Assembly, which also said that the ruling BJP was likely to lose substantial ground in the elections. It predicted more than 125 seats for the Congress and the BJP, which won 104 in the 2008 polls, may get less than 50 seats.
Another survey too suggested almost the same results. As per the survey, only 22% respondents thought that BJP would come back to power while 38% favoured the Congress. It also indicated that the Congress would get more than 130 seats and the BJP would be left with around 63 seats.
The survey also said that corruption, inflation, stability and security were the top concerns of the people but the main issue in these elections was the corruption factor. Moreover, Karnataka whose 184 constituencies out of 224 are rural has draught, sanitation, right price for agricultural products and health care as the main issues. These are the problems that may come back to haunt the BJP come polling day.
It is ironical, to say the least, that the Bhartiya Janata Party which has been relentlessly attacking the Congress on the matters of corruption and non-governance at the Centre is on a sticky wicket on the same matters in Karnataka. The indictment of its former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa in the land scam and illegal mining case seriously damaged the image of the BJP as a clean party.
Also its former ministers - G Janardhana Reddy and G Karunakara Reddy of Bellary – going to jail in illegal mining scam did not help matters. The closing down of more than 120 mines in Bellary district by the Supreme Court left many jobless, creating resentment among voters.
It seemed that the tag of BJP being the party with a difference was just a misnomer, at least as far as Karnataka was concerned. However, the moot question is – Will the Congress benefit from BJP’s shortcomings. And also whether Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar saying – “We already expressed regrets and apology. Whatever bad things happened in the government regarding corruption or other charges, for that we apologized” – will placate the voters enough to give the BJP another shot in forming the government.
Caste conundrum: Lingayat Vs Vokaliga
Ajith Vijay Kumar
Controlled by powerful seers and maths, the Lingayat and Vokaliga castes have always played a pivotal role in deciding the electoral fortunes of political parties in Karnataka.
Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur, Moorusavira Mutt in Hubli or Adichunchungiri Mutt in Mysore are among the powerful religious centres whose approval is considered crucial by all political parties.
While Lingayats dominate north Karnataka, the Vokaligas are in strength in Mysore-Mandya region of south Karnataka.
The BJP won its first frontier in the south in 2008 riding on a massive support in its favour in both the communities. While Lingayats, who constitute 17% of Karnataka’s 65 million the population, have traditionally been known to have supported the BJP, it is the support of the Vokaligas – 16% of population - that proved the clincher.
But that was another time and age. In 2013, the BJP is fighting without its most influential Lingayat leader BS Yeddyurappa and the party is uncertain about the support of Vokaligas, who are seen to be gravitating towards HD Kumaraswamy, who belongs to the same caste.
It remains to be seen whether incumbent Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, a Lingayat himself, will be able to hold to the support of the community or whether Yeddyurappa’s Karnataka Jana Paksha will manage to wean away the community from the tutelage of the BJP.
Bangalore: The urban gateway to Vidhan Souda
Ajith Vijay Kumar
With 28 constituencies, Bangalore holds the potential to swing the elections. All political parties have rolled out ‘exclusive’ poll manifesto for the IT city.
From affordable housing to drinking water and better commute options, the promises are aplenty. There is lies the dichotomy of the situation. On one hand the citizens of burgeoning metropolis want to hold onto the aspirations to see their city emerge as a truly global IT hub, on the other they have to struggle for basic civic amenities.
In the 2008 Assembly elections, the BJP had bagged 18 out of 28 seats and formed the government in the state. However, the corruption ridden state government track record in improving the civic amenities in the city left much to be desired.
The biggest problem being improper garbage disposal; Bangalore is stinking!
The Congress may reverse the situation given the anti-incumbency against the BJP. Also, the JD(S) is keen to occupy the space which it hopes will be vacated by the BJP and is fighting to change its image of only being a pro-rural party.