BJP’s district polls showing may save Yeddyurappa his chair (News Analysis)

By V.S. Karnic, IANS
Tuesday, January 4, 2011

BANGALORE - The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party Tuesday did not sweep the local governing polls in Karnataka as predicted by Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa — but its performance may save him from being axed over land scams.

Battered by charges of favouring his kin with prime land in and around Bangalore, Yeddyurappa won over his party central leaders to allow him to continue, promising a clean sweep of the Dec 26, 31 and Jan 1 polls to 30 zila (district) and 176 taluka (sub-district) panchayats.

The land scandal hit BJP’s first chief minister in south India in November when the state was getting ready for the panchayat polls. Denying any wrongdoing, Yeddyurappa took the stand that the results of these polls would be a fitting reply to the charges against him.

The BJP leadership bought this argument as it did not have any leader to replace Yeddyurappa just ahead of the polls held mostly in rural and semi-urban areas. A contention of Yeddyurappa was that it was mainly urban voters who were concerned over land scams and not rural and semi-urban electorate.

The results announced Tuesday do not prove him to be entirely correct.

The BJP won only 12 of the 30 zila panachayats (ZPs) and 68 of the 176 taluka panchayats (TPs), far removed from the “at least 20 ZPs and over 100 TPs in our kitty” chant of Yeddyurappa and state party chief K.S. Eshwarappa.

Yeddyurappa also suffered a major setback in his home district of Shimoga where BJP barely managed to win the zila panchayat. The party bagged 16 of the 31 seats and conceded 13 to Congress and two to the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S).

The Reddy brothers, mining barons and ministers, were also in for a shock as BJP failed to get a majority in the 36 member Bellary zila panchayat. The party won just 18 with the Congress taking 17 and the JD-S one.

Consolation for BJP, however, is that the Congress and the JD-S, which had launched a relentless campaign for Yeddyurappa’s removal over land scams, did much worse.

The Congress and JD-S managed to win four ZPs each. In 10 ZPs, it was a split verdict.

In the TPs, Congress won 31 and the JD-S 29 with a hung verdict in 48.

The not-so-impressive BJP show in both ZPs and TPs, ironically, does not make the party leadership’s task of deciding Yeddyurappa’s fate any easier. He has given enough indication of flaunting the victory to silence the critics.

“At least now my government’s critics, particularly the JD-S, should learn a lesson from these results and cooperate in working for the development of the state,” Yeddyurappa told reporters as the results came in.

He also asserted that BJP’s victory in 12 ZPs and 68 TPs showed that it has a “huge base” in rural areas. “Earlier BJP was considered an urban-based party. These results have proved that BJP has huge base in rural area,” Yeddyurappa said.

Ahead of the results, Yeddyurappa had also suggested a sort of opening for the party central leadership to get over the embarrassment it faced over land scam allegations against him.

“I would like to play a role in national politics. I will leave the state politics after completing my term which has another 30 months or so,” he told reporters in mid-December, clearly a hint to party leaders to accommodate him in the Rajya Sabha if it decides to give him marching orders. One of his sons, B.Y. Raghavenda, is a BJP Lok Sabha member.

For the Congress, the election outcome is a continuation of the defeats it has suffered in all the elections since the 2004 assembly polls.

However the party’s new state president G. Parameshwara, who took over ahead of the polls, opined that all is not lost. “If you see the number of seats we have won in both the ZPs and TPs, we are not far behind the BJP,” he told reporters.

“This is encouraging for the party, a clear indication that we can return to power if partymen work hard,” he said.

The JD-S can take comfort that it has held on to its strongholds in old Mysore region - Hassan, the home district of former prime minister and party president H.D. Deve Gowda, and in Mandya, Mysore and Tumkur districts.

The show strengthens the JD-S’ repeated pleas to Congress to join hands with it to defeat the BJP.

Both Gowda and his son, former chief minister and state JD-S president H.D. Kumaraswamy have been suggesting to Congress ahead of every poll that the two should have an alliance to halt the BJP’s march in Karnataka.

The Congress is, however, wary of going with the JD-S as Kumaraswamy had brought down the Congress-JD-S coalition government in the state in 2006 and joined hands with BJP to become chief minister.

The results have once again shown that the Karnataka electorate excels in giving split verdicts, with no clear winner but all taking consolation that they have done better than expected.

The trend started with the 2004 assembly polls with BJP emerging the single largest party with 79 seats in the 225-member house, including one nominated. The Congress and the JD-S came second and third, respectively.

This split verdict was repeated in the assembly polls in 2008, Lok Sabha elections in 2009 and district polls now.

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at

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