Yeddyurappa, the man who can dent BJP hold in Karnataka

By V.S. Karnic, IANS
Monday, November 22, 2010

BANGALORE - In 2004, he saw no future for himself in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But today, with his loyalists firmly backing him, Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa is turning out to be a man who can dent the BJP’s prospects in Karnataka.

With the BJP central leaders not having yet made public their stand on whether its first chief minister in south India will continue or will be axed in view of allegations that he favoured his relatives with prime land, it is speculation galore.

Media reports insist it is now a matter of when he will go, but Yeddyurappa’s loyalists assert no decision has been taken and he will remain chief minister.

The man who was planning to quit the BJP after the 2004 Karnataka assembly polls as he was not projected as chief ministerial candidate, Yeddyurappa is now saying “Yeddyurappa’s successor is Yeddyurappa only”.

“The party came to power in 2008 under my leadership and it will fight the next assembly polls also under my leadership. After that the party can decide to make some one else chief minister,” he has been insisting as the land allotment row threatens his continuance in the chief minister’s office.

But there was a time when he considered leaving the party.

A few months after the 2004 polls, Yeddyurappa met H.D. Kumaraswamy, son of Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) president and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, to explore the possibility of joining that party.

Yeddyurappa was upset not only because he was not projected as the chief ministerial candidate. He was frustrated because the party could not form the government though it had emerged as the single largest with 79 seats in the 225-member house that includes one nominated member. The Congress and JD-S joined hands to capture power.

“That was an unpardonable mistake on my part. I will never again make such a mistake. I will never again think of leaving the BJP,” he had said ahead of taking over as chief minister in May 2008.

As caste has become a decisive factor in Karnataka politics, no one can say for certain how Yeddyurappa’s removal from the chief minister’s post would affect the BJP.

Yeddyurappa belongs to the Lingayat community which has been dominating the state politics along with the rival Vokkaliga caste group.

It is not that the entire Lingayat community, which constitutes about 17 percent of the state’s over 60 million population (2001 census), backs the BJP.

But Lingayat members in the Congress themselves say their community votes have largely deserted the party and moved to the BJP. The main reason, they say, is that the community feels neglected by the Congress.

Besides the BJP, which came to power for the first time in Karnataka in May 2008 polls, does not have a huge majority in the 225-member assembly that includes a nominated member.

It is also a divided house with Yeddyurappa surviving two major revolts against his leadership in the last 30 months.

With 16 law makers, including five Independents, disqualified following their rebellion in September-October, the house strength has come down to reduced 209. Yeddyurappa managed to win the trust vote Oct 14 with 106 votes in favour and 100 against.

The 106 included an Independent member who has been promised a cabinet berth.

If Yeddyurappa is removed and another BJP government comes into power, his loyalists can defeat it in the assembly when it seeks the trust vote. Otherwise too its longevity will be in doubt.

An early election is also no guarantee that the BJP will return to power.

The party barely managed to win the 2008 polls even though Yeddyurappa made it an issue of “betrayal” of Lingayats by the Vokkaliga dominated JD-S.

It won 110 seats and came to power with the support of five Independents all whom were made cabinet ministers as a reward. They have now been disqualified for rebelling against Yeddyurapa along with 11 BJP lawmakers. The 16 have taken their case to courts.

At the central level, the BJP does not have any leader with a mass appeal in Karnataka.

Sushma Swaraj could have emerged as one as she has learnt the language and even gave fiery speeches in Kannada when she took on the Congress president in the 1999 Lok Sabha polls from Bellary in north Karnataka.

She is now linked to rich iron ore mine owners the Reddy brothers, Tourism Minister G. Janardhana and Revenue Minister G. Karunakara.

The Reddys had almost brought down the Yeddyurappa ministry in October-November last year but the split was papered over by Sushma Swaraj by clipping Yeddyurappa’s wings.

In this backdrop of not having a leader at both state and central level, the BJP decides the fate of Yeddyurappa, hoping its future in Karnataka will not be bleak and the ‘gateway to rule south India’ will not be shut for a long time to come.

Filed under: Politics

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