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Yediurappa and BJP’s moment of reckoning

It was sometime in 1997 during the  Chief  Ministership of veteran socialist leader J. H. Patel in Karnataka that B. S. Yediurappa made a three hour long speech in the Assembly as the Leader of Opposition on a small incident in Mysore and demanded the resignation of J. H. Patel on moral grounds.

A lot of hue and cry was raised about the government’s insensitivity and corruption. When J. H. Patel rose to reply to the charges, he started with the story of a 90 year old man who was called Huchha (meaning “mad” in Kannada) and then turned towards Yediurappa asking him how old he was. Yediurappa mumbled that he was above 50 years of age. At this J. H. Patel retorted in Kannada ”Tau ardha Huccha aagirbeko” (then you must be at least half mad) and kept watching him for over two minutes in the assembly and walked out, leaving everyone stunned…..!!

The political wheel of Karnataka has come full circle since then and many of Yediurappa’s cabinet colleagues remember and remind themselves of what J. H. Patel had told him then and admit that on many occasions, he has surpassed their expectations including indulging in corruption. His mercurial temperament and king size ego  coupled with short temper has sent many officers and even party MLAs scurrying for cover and today he has become a huge source of embarrassment for the BJP President Nitin Gadkari and immensely  diluted the party’s crusade against Congress party on  the issue of graft and corruption.

He has become like a Frankenstein for the BJP in the state and if pushed to the wall, he can damage the party from within and make sure that the BJP would be on the mat in the next assembly elections. The Lingayat leader from Shimoga has been the 25th Chief Minister of Karnataka, He became the Chief Minister of Karnataka after the BJP’s success in the 2008 Karnataka Assembly election. He was also briefly the Chief Minister in November 2007 before the coalition government with Janata Dal (Secular) collapsed. He is the first person from the BJP to become the Chief Minister of a South Indian state and has ruled the State with an iron hand.

He was first elected to the lower house of Karnataka Legislature in 1983 and has since represented the Shikaripur constituency six times. In the Tenth Assembly, he was chosen Leader of Opposition. In 1999, he lost the elections but was nominated by the BJP to become a member of the Legislative Council (upper house) of Karnataka. He rose to prominence when he helped Janata Dal (Secular) party’s H. D. Kumaraswamy to bring down the coalition government of Dharam Singh. Kumaraswamy formed the government with the help of the BJP in Karnataka headed by Yediurappa. A deal was struck between the JD(S) and BJP, which specified that H. D. Kumaraswamy would be the Chief Minister for the first 20 months, after which Yediurappa would become to Chief Minister for the remaining 20 months of the current tenure of the Legislature. Yediurappa was nominated as the Deputy Chief Minister as well as the finance minister in Kumaraswamy’s Government.

However in October 2007, when Yediurappa’s turn of becoming the Chief Minister was supposed to start, Kumaraswamy refused to resign from the post of the Chief Minister. This forced Yediurappa and all of the ministers from his party to resign, withdraw the BJP’s support from the government. Karnataka was put under President’s rule for some time. During the period of the President’s rule, the JD(S) and the BJP decided to bury their differences and this paved the way for Yediurappa to become the Chief Minister of Karnataka. Yediurappa was sworn in as the 25th Chief Minister of Karnataka on November 12, 2007. However, JD(S) refused to support his government over disagreement on sharing of ministries which made him resign from his post on November 19, 2007.

In Karnataka’s 2008 Assembly elections, Yediurappa contested from Shikaripura against the Samajwadi Party’s S. Bangarappa. The Congress and JD(S) did not field a candidate in the constituency and backed Bangarappa, but despite this, Yediurappa won the seat by a margin over 45,000 votes. He took the oath of office as Chief Minister on May 30, 2008.

In November 2010, Yediurappa was alleged to have used his position as Chief Minister to unfairly favour his sons in the allotment of prime land in Bangalore. On February 5, 2011, Yediurappa publicly declared his assets, and then challenged the Opposition and the Congress  party to find any “black money”.

Yediurappa maintained a tough stance against all allegations and  ept boasting that “ all gods were with him because he was doing a good job”  Even after having been indicted by the Lokayukta for causing a loss of Rs 16085 crore to the exchequer and being involved in the mining scam in a big way, Yediurappa continued to remain defiant and told the press in  Delhi Wednesday night that he continued to have the support of all BJP MLAs and MPs and continued to pour scorn on BJP diktat. The 22,228 page report on illegal mining in Karnataka prepared by Justice Santosh Hedge also indicts his four ministers and 747 officials in the State.

While the BJP cen6tral leadership may have declared before the camera that Yeddi would have to bow down before them as this would give the saffron brigade a high moral ground to step up its offensive against Congress on the issue of corruption, the beleaguered Karnataka CM would not go down without fighting and at the end, he may even dissolve the assembly and force a midterm poll..  The BJP central leadership has been accused of double standards for ignoring the charges against the Lingayat strongman at a time when it has launched a high-wattage campaign against Congress on corruption.

This is despite the fact that BJP vice-president and former in-charge of Karnataka Shanta Kumar had clearly demanded that Yediurappa be removed immediately in the wake of his indictment by the Lokayukta. “I have stated in my letter that due to Yediurappa’s continuance in office, the image of the BJP throughout the country was getting tarnished. We have compromised long enough. We should not wait any longer and go for a change of leadership,” he said three days ago.

A section of BJP leaders have been  admitting in private that Yediurappa knew the lack of unanimity ion the party at the centre level and continued to thumb his nose into them whenever he wanted. He astounded many when he challenged his political rival to meet him in a temple on Monday and swear “in the presence of God” that the allegations of corruption he has leveled against the Chief Minister were genuine. Religious leaders balked; Karnataka voters were baffled; but H. D. Kumaraswamy, the man challenged by Yediurappa said he’d be there. But he backed out at the last moment from the ’temple truth test”.

The BJP central leadership appears to be in a bind and it doesn’t know how exactly to deal with him. It is aware that if pushed to the wall, Yediurappa could as well defy them and force midterm poll even as he had agreed to follow the  party direction but only on his own terms.

The BJP   continued its attack on the UPA II on a series of issues but it continued to practice its double standard when  the Karnataaka issue came and in the process, it has lost much of its sheen and sting. A large section of Indian voters have already started believing that BJP too had become more or less “a clone of Congress culture and it acted only when it suited its interest and not the larger interest of the country.”

The fact is that the present BJP leadership is suffering from the factional crisis and many of its stalwarts are busy drubbing the others to win the race to become the next prime ministerial candidate of the party. Those based in Delhi are using the media to further their campaign while others who have been pushed to the brink and these are primarily those who command the vote banks, are in collusion with others to gain points and stage a comeback. Some, still, are vying to woo the RSS, to back them.

The fact however remains that the BJP as  the main opposition party, is equally to blame for the quagmire of corruption, inflation, scams and unemployment, into which the people of India find themselves today. It has not been able to wage an all-out war against the government misdoings and thus has failed to rein in the treasury benches and the people are suffering for their lack of vigour and ardour. The party is bogged down by its own infighting and that has  been visible clearly on many occasions.

One such example was last year when  in the Lok Sabha, where Sushma Swaraj is the Leader of the Opposition, the BJP supported the Educational Tribunal Bill placed before the House by Kapil Sibal. But the same bill was opposed by the party in the Rajya Sabha where Arun Jaitley is the Leader of the Opposition. It shows that the party did not debate the Bill and no consensus was arrived at. Both the leaders were at loggerheads.
The second example of BJP’s double standard was seen in the controversy surrounding the appointment of CVC, K. V. Thomas where Sushma Swaraj was all furry and fire personified. But she forgot that she was the one who had appointed K. S. Sarma as the CEO of Prasar Bharti in 2002 even when there were more serious charges and CBI inquiry pending against him.
This war has been initiated over the question of the succession of Lal Krishna Advani. Who will replace him as the next proposed face as the PM candidate of the party? The frontrunners in this rat race are Nitin Gadkari, Shushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi. Now all are fighting among themselves and Advani is successful being at the helm as the sole arbitrator. Those close to Advani have been known to be media savvy and lacking any kind of popular support to the extent that they cannot even win their own seats, leave alone winning the elections for the party. Rudderlessness has sapped the life blood of the party and left it in shambles.
The Delhi-based leaders fighting within themselves while the popular leaders sitting in the states are chaffing at the fact that they have been sidelined and not given any role in decision making. This is causing untold harm to the organization. Ironically, most of the BJP leaders still firmly believe that they could still topple the UPA II apple car through continuous media blitzkrieg and in the process; they remain more like paper tigers.
On the other hand, leaders with popular support have   already started disobeying Advani. Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the CM of MP, refused Advani’s missive that he should help Chandan Mitra, a close confidante of Advani to get elected to the Rajya Sabha since his term is drawing to an end. The CM told the patriarch that there are other devoted workers of the party who have toiled for decades for the party who need to be rewarded with Rajya Sabha posts. .

The one man who seems to have blazed the trail against the spin doctors of Delhi has been Narendra Modi, the CM of Gujarat. Only Arun  Jaitley is the one whom he can count upon in Delhi, otherwise he is a thorn in the neck for all others in the party. He has emerged as the biggest leader winning Gujarat elections back to back.  Yet he continues to do what he thinks it right and does not care much about the central leaders.
Under these circumstances, the BJP is laboring hard to ensure that Yediurappa steps down without much Tamasha so that it can regain its moral ground and attack the ruling party in the forthcoming Parliament session starting from August 1.   But Nitin Gadkari knows it too well that the most powerful Lingayats in Karnataka would turn their back if Yediurappa’s successor is not to their choice.

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