BENGALURU: BJP State President Nalin Kumar Kateel completes one year as party chief on August 27. While his supporters want a big celebration, Kateel himself wants to play it down, considering the Covid pandemic and floods in the State.
Although he is not comparable in stature to Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, his year as president has seen the BJP doing remarkably well in the assembly by-elections, winning 12 of 15 seats, leaving two to the Congress, one to a BJP rebel and an embarrassing blank to the JDS.
Kateel’s big challenge will be to ensure the party does well in the city elections for which low-key preparations are on. The party has to win four Council seats so that it has a clear majority in the Upper House where the Congress is strong. There is the Sira by-election, and RR Nagar and Maski seats, when the legal challenges are sorted out.
National General Secretary BL Santhosh, who was here on Sunday, gave the party unit a road map for the next six months, with Kateel overseeing and reporting to the central leadership. Kateel has also been given the responsibility to increase the party’s footprint in the Old Mysuru region, where the party has traditionally done poorly in over 60 seats. The issue was raised at closed-door party meetings, saying it’s like fighting only 164 of the 224 seats because of lack of traction here.
‘’Nalin Kateel’s selection for the position, though a surprise, is symbiotic and links the RSS with BJP in Karnataka. His role has been nominal but significant for the future proposition to strengthen RSS involvement in active politics. So far, he has been non-controversial and Dakshina Kannada-centric. A lot of hope is pinned on his age and links, and there is an expectation that he will be a pan-Karnataka leader,’’ said political analyst Harish Ramaswamy.
Kateel’s opponents, though, point out that he has virtually “zero influence” beyond the coastal belt, and still remains a rank outsider in Old Mysuru, north and central Karnataka, and will not be able to fill Yediyurappa’s super-sized shoes, should the need arise. Yet others appreciate his work and say Kateel is the classic example of political meritocracy, having risen up the ranks through sheer dint of hard work. His two victories over Congress strongman Janardhan Poojary is testimony to this fact, says brand guru