BENGALURU: The year 2008 was a watershed moment for the BJP. Smarting from HD Kumaraswamy’s refusal to hand over the post of Chief Minister to BS Yediyurappa, the party decided to fight the polls, and came to power with a simple majority, a first for the party in Karnataka and in the south.
While most people credited the BJP victory to Kumaraswamy’s tactics and a sympathy wave for Yediyurappa, there was another, behind-the-scenes actor who played an instrumental role. With the demise of former Union Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday, the BJP has lost its ‘crisis manager’ for Karnataka.
Jaitley was the man in charge of the Karnataka assembly elections in 2008. “He was keen to absorb as much information as possible at the time. He would get feedback on each and every issue on the phone or during his visits to Karnataka,” recalled Minister and senior BJP leader S Suresh Kumar.
Speaking to The New Sunday Express, Kumar, who was a minister in the 2008 government said that Jaitely played an important role in the BJP winning 115 seats. “Even after the government was formed, he conducted a ‘Saha Chinthan’, a three-day workshop for all ministers at Suttur near Mysuru,” Kumar said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was Gujarat Chief Minister at the time, was invited to take a couple of sessions for the newly inducted ministers. “From not using cell phones during meetings, to our behaviour within and outside the Vidhana Soudha and how to talk to the public and the media, training was given for a wide variety of topics,” Kumar said. “The workshop showed us the important role that a
minister has to play in building the government and the party’s image.”
In 2011, Yediyurappa stepped down from the post of Chief Minister, throwing the government into a crisis. Later, DV Sadananda Gowda stepped down in 2012 and Jaitley took on the mantle of ‘crisis manager’. “He ensured that the government would run without hindrance. He was a no nonsense leader and would listen to the issue and resolve it immediately. That was his approach,” Kumar said.
Jaitley’s influence on Karnataka also extended to the Cauvery water sharing issue. “Minister Basavaraj Bommai and I went to him with our point of view and he explained and interacted with (Senior Advocate Fali) Nariman at Delhi. The state is indebted to him and we will miss his crisis management skills,” Kumar said.
On Saturday, Chief Minister Yediyurappa also said that Jaitley’s death was a personal loss to him. “I have lost a leader and a guide in his death,” he said in his condolence message. “I called on him twenty days back and he praised the BJP’s unprecedented victory in Karnataka against the coalition government. All of us in Karnataka mourn his death,” Yediyurapppa said.