January 18, 2014

BACK INTO THE PACK


YEDDY REJOINS THE BJP

Courtesy: Yeddyurappa.in

Former Karnataka CM and Lingayat strongman B S Yeddyurappa rejoined the BJP last week, a development that could see the saffron outfit do relatively well compared to the debacle it suffered in the state polls held about six months ago. The Shikaripura MLA had joined the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) just before the 2013 state assembly elections along with his supporters and well wishers after the high command refused to re-install him as the Chief Minister considering the allegations of corruption levied against him; in fact, in one such case, he was arrested and jailed in October 2011 after the state Lokayukta found of guilty of illegally denotifying land in Bengaluru to favor his son. Miffed by his party's decision to sideline him, he had vowed to teach the BJP a lesson, hopeful that his caste which is the biggest in Karnataka will stick with him. At that same time, with many pundits expecting a hung assembly, it was believed that the KJP could emerge as the Kingmaker. While he did manage to hit the BJP hard in many places, especially in the north, Yeddy's outfit got just six seats with many of his trusted aides including Shobha Karandalaje biting the dust. As Congress' Siddaramaih was crowned, the saffron party relegated to third spot and Yeddy being a dud, one thing was clear - the BJP and its former state chief had to mend their differences in order to survive in the southern state. The question was not why... it was when. The elevation of Narendra Modi who is said to be close to BSY, within the party and the end of Advani era further helped this cause since the patriarch had been quite vocal in his criticism of the former CM. Finally, in January 2014, the Lingayat leader rejoined the party that he had built in the state over period spanning almost four decades in what was a rather low key ceremony attended by his rivals including Sadanand Gowda, Jagdish Shettar and bete noire Ananth Kumar. Along with him, three more KJP MLAs were joined the BJP; two more legislators B R Patil (Aland) and Guru Patil (Shahpur) have decided to remain independent for the time being.  

The development is a big boost for the BJP considering the route it had to face in the 2013 polls. Such was the fate of the party that it lost the race to become the primary opposition to the Janata Dal - Secular (JD-S). The rejoining of the KJP supremo will help strengthen the outfit, specially in North Karnataka where the Lingayat community is predominant. An analysis of the state results shows that the BJP lost about 30 to 35 seats due to a split of votes between it and the KJP, with a majority of these seats eventually going to the Congress. While it may not have dramatically changed the game, the fact remains that had BSY still be in the saffron camp, the BJP would have easily crossed the 60 mark. In the hindsight, considering the kind of regime that they gave to Kannadigas in those 5 disastrous years, I believe the BJP definitely deserved the drubbing that they got. Meanwhile, BSY has sounded the electoral bugle. He has set a target of 20 seats; it will be quite an achievement even if the saffron party gets past the two-digit mark. Although, 2009 was a nightmare for the BJP, it did extremely well in Karnataka, bagging 18 of the 28 seats. However, this time around, the Congress is hopeful of riding on the wave in its favor and win over 15 seats. The entry of Yeddy may make it a more even contest now. Secondly, in my opinion, it is a shot in the arm for Narendra Modi. The appointment of the Gujarat CM at the helm of affairs before the 2014 general elections has been the key reason for the re-entry of the Lingayat leader. The whole affair is a proof that his anointment has helped further strengthen the party organization and rejuvenate the cadre. The Hindutva strongman will hope that BSY's presence will help the BJP perform well in Karnataka and help him in his mission to get 272+ seats.

Now, the rejoining of Yeddy into the BJP has its own set of liabilities too. The manner in which the party leadership sought to keep the whole thing a simple affair rather than planning a huge rally to welcome its former chief in the state, something you might have expected to happen in Indian politics, says it all. Although he may have exonerated of most of the charges framed against him, Yeddyurappa has a public image of being corrupt and greedy. The numerous cases against him become a cause of embarrassment for party and took the sting off their attack on the scams unearthed during UPA II at the Centre. At a time when corruption is becoming a major electoral issue after years, the return of BSY could dent the BJP's image. Secondly, another headache for the state leadership will be to keep the organization united. When he stepped down from the post of the Chief Minister, he chose his close aide D V Sadanand Gowda - a Vokkaliga, a clear move to keep away other Lingayat leaders from gaining prominence. However, when it became clear that DVS would not act like his pawn, BSY pressurized the party to have him replaced with Jagdish Shettar. A few months later though, the duo fought and after the BJP high command refused to sack Shettar, Yeddy walked out. In the months before the elections, DVS and Shettar had publicly taken on BSY, claiming that his departure had cleansed the saffron outfit. While the two were present at the occasion, it remains to be seen whether they are ready to forget the past and work together. However, what remains to be seen is whether BSY and Ananth Kumar can dissolve their differences. The fiction between the two is a stuff of legends in party circles. The performance of the BJP will largely depend on how they can curb their individual differences for the greater cause. And lastly, a third reason for the party's headache ahead of the General elections might be Yeddyurappa's authoritarian attitude. It is believed that just in about a week of the development, he has started throwing around his weight and has asked the party to drop as many as 10 sitting MPs including some big names - Prahalad Joshi (Dharwad), Ananthkumar Hegde (North Kanara), Suresh Angadi (Belgaum), P C Mohan (Bangalore - Central) and Chandre Gowda (Bangalore - North). The dropping of such heavyweights may lead to internal rebellion jeopardizing the party' plans altogether. Certainly, the return of Yeddyurappa back into the saffron camp is a calculated risk. Whether it pays off or further plunges damages the prospects of the party in Karnataka need to be seen.



IMAGES

(1) Courtesy: Yeddyurappa.in
Source: B S Yeddyurappa (Link)