BANGALORE: Sulking BJP maverick leader BS Yeddyurappa’s blow hot blow cold stance towards the BJP central leadership on his returning as chief minister of Karnataka may prove costly for the party. After trying to pressure Delhi to reinstate him, now he is on the backfoot—ready to accept ‘any party post’ given to him—read, perhaps the state party boss. This has already got the state party president KS Eshwarappa readying for the battle to protect his position.
The infighting in the state BJP is one of the major causes of the party losing the Udipi-Chickmagalur byelection last week. “It s devastation, not defeat,” remarked a senior BJP leader of the Jana Sangh vintage. BJP lost in a region that has been its bastion for almost two decades. “Rejection by this electorate means we are paying for our mistakes that we have been committing ever since we came to power, four years ago. If we do not consider this as a warning bell and continue to behave and conduct in an abominable manner, then no one can save us in the 2013 elections,” another senior leader said.
Insiders in the party blame three major players in the BJP for the present state of affairs: former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, party national general secretary Ananth Kumar and state BJP president K S Eshwarappa. Ananth Kumar and Yeddyurappa continuously indulge in one-upmanship, while Eshwarappa’s tenacity to be a fence-sitter and play opportunistic politics—instead of being impartial and non-biased—is only doing more harm to the party.
As long as Yeddyurappa was in power it was complete one-man showmanship whose entire time was spent warding off the threat allegedly posed by H D Deve Gowda and his two sons to the very existence of the government, little attention was paid to the all-important public conduct and behavior of the ministers, which by any yardstick were abominable.
The absence of political understanding and acumen in the media secretariat of the CM's office and the BJP to effectively refute allegations of corruption and ineptitude is adding to the party's woes.
“These omissions and commissions were nothing but betrayal of the mandate given to us in 2008. It was but natural for the people to develop aversion to the BJP. They decided to teach the party and the government a lesson which they did it in Udupi-Chickamagalur on March 18,” said B B Shivappa, ex-MLA and former state unit president. Referring to the incidences of black magic that were reported after Yeddyurappa took over, Shivappa highlights the extent of animosity within the party. “I have been in politics for almost five decades, and I've never heard of black magic performed on political opponents with lemon with nails, kumkum, turmetic and betal leaves placed in front of the Vidhana Soudha. This is bizzarre and unheard of in Karnataka.”
Yet another important factor that goes against Yeddyurappa is that he started patronising functionaries of other parties, especially Lingayats, in order to consolidate his position within the party and the government at the cost of BJP’s old timers, which resulted in deep and widespread disenchantment. Ananth Kumar and Eshwarappa added fuel to the fire by pointing fingers instead of trying to mend fences.
“If Yeddyurappa is charged for commission, then Ananth Kumar and Eshwarappa should be charged for omission. They played partisan politics, instead of cementing the ties and bridging the psychological and physical gap between Yeddyurappa and the party workers, they extended the divide,” Shivappa says.
The common refrain of the party cadre is that they do not know whom their god father is. “When elephants fight, grass is trampled. In the Yeddyurappa and Ananth Kumar fight, we at the grassroot level suffer,” said PM Raghunath, a staunch party worker since Jana Sangh days.
Thirty two years ago, in 1979-80 precisely, L K Advani authored a book titled People Betrayed where he described and explained in the circumstances that led to the collapse of the Janata Party government, the first-ever non-Congress establishment in the history of Independent India led by Morarji Desai. The crux of Advani’s emphasis was that the Janata Party government led by Desai was sent out lock, stock and barrel by the people who were angry due to the abominable behaviour of the Janata Party leaders though the performance of the government was remarkable. Now, going by the March 18 byelection result, will Advani’s own men in Karnataka meet a similar fate when they head to Assembly elections next year is question popular in Bangalore.