MYSURU: Former Union Minister JP Nadda, who has taken over as BJP national president, faces many challenges — apart from the immediate litmus test of the Delhi elections, the party’s growth in the southern states, and whether it remains in power in Karnataka, considered the ‘Gateway to the South’.
Nadda’s tenure is likely to see a generational shift in the Karnataka BJP and he has the task of finding and grooming an able successor to Lingayat strongman BS Yediyurappa. The BJP may also look to prime the second-rung leadership after the front line of Yediyurappa, KS Eshwarappa, Jagadish Shettar and R Ashoka, in time for the 2023 state elections.
The party should also be prepared if the government crashes midway through its term, following political developments and dissidence after the much-awaited cabinet expansion. Nadda, who has worked with PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, is known for his soft approach and democratic style of functioning. He is likely to set the agenda for the Karnataka BJP to perform, strengthen its cadre, expand its base to bring BJP to power by warming up to dominant Lingayat mutts and others, and cut into the Congress-JDS vote-bank in Old Mysuru region. Besides this, Nadda will have to ensure assimilation of “outsiders” who have joined the BJP and won the bypolls, feel insiders.
The newly-elected MLAs are set to grab their share of the power pie, are particular about plum portfolios and have already started exerting pressure on the BJP and Yediyurappa. The party should also ensure that the new MLAs integrate with hardcore BJP workers to contain trouble. They will also have to be development-oriented, rather than identifying themselves as a separate entity.
The BJP knows that to take on the Congress and JDS, it will need to work on social engineering to expand its base, and reach out to the backwards, Dalits and Vokkaligas to gain a stronghold in Mysuru region and also in urban-centric Bengaluru, that has favoured the Congress in the general election. Party leaders feel that the Nadda-Yeddiyurappa combination will address many issues for smooth governance too.
Political commentator Prof Harish Ramaswamy said that Nadda should look for alternative leadership in the Lingayat community, as Yediyurappa is seen as a massive leader with a grassroot connect. “Removing Yediyurappa will warrant restructuring the party. He should also make BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel a pan-Karnataka face as he is not rooted in politics and his language does not sell,” he said.
But first, the Yediyurappa government should perform by delivering some solid programmes, address the issue of flood-affected people and also contain the damage from the CAA/NRC fallout.BJP spokesperson Madhusudhan said the foremost challenge is for the party to supplement the government and improve coordination. He said the BJP, which knows how to win elections, would stay in power as the Congress is a divided house.