By Kalyani Shankar
The story goes that long ago there was a boy called Gopala who often used to frighten people by falsely claiming tiger was coming. But when it actually came and Gopala screamed ‘”tiger, tiger” nobody believed and the tiger attacked them. Former Karnataka chief minister Yediyurappa has been doing the same thing for months threatening to break the BJP in the state. It is only the patience of the BJP top brass that has averted the break up so far. This week again he queered the pitch only to back out for the time being.
Is the BJP ready for a day when he may finally quit? Since he stepped down as chief minister last year Yediyurappa has been a problem for the BJP leaders. He does not even take their calls as the BJP top brass found out this week. Ultimately they had to use Yediyurappa’s close associate Shobha Karanjilade‘s phone to establish contact with him when she was here pleading his case.
Despite his pending court cases, Yediyurappa is not a lightweight as he has the support of the powerful Lingayat community and that of several Mutt Heads who are influential. He cannot be ignored because he has a sizeable chunk of MLAs and ministers supporting him. His successor Sadanand Gowda, handpicked by Yediyurappa himself, has been unable to establish himself despite the full backing of the high command. Saving the first ever BJP government in the South depends upon how the BJP handles Yediyurappa. Losing his support in the next polls means losing the state for the BJP. In such a situation what can the high command do except giving him assurances of temporary nature to humor him?
What is Yediyurappa’s demand? When the Karnataka High Court quashed a portion of the Lokayukta report and the governor’s sanction based on the report to prosecute him, he got a breather. Also, when he stepped down last year, he believed it was a temporary measure and he would come back. To the discomfiture of the BJP, he remains powerful despite his fall from grace. The former chief minister has spent better part of this year trying to flex political muscle to arm-twist his party leadership into reinstating him but in vain. His successor “the smiling Gowda” has not been able to keep him in good humor. The wily former chief minister is fighting Gowda at one level weakening him and at another level the BJP leaders hailing from the state like BJP national general secretary Ananth Kumar and state BJP chief Easwarappa. The BJP has refused to be browbeaten to replace Gowda.
Naturally the high command is in a dilemma because reinstating him will send a wrong message while he is facing CBI charges and not reinstating him may cost the state for the party. The latest blow came from the Supreme Court last week when it ordered a CBI inquiry against Yediyurappa’s nepotism, favoring top mining companies and illegal land acquisition. The CBI raids have made it worse.
What are the former chief minister’s options? The first is to grin and bear the continuance of Gowda and agree for a deputy chief minister of his choice, may be Shettigar. The high command is willing for this option, the best under the circumstances. The raids conducted at his residences by the CBI on Wednesday have weakened him further.
The second is to quit the BJP, which he has built up from the scratch, and join another party like the Congress or the NCP. In January this year there were rumors that he may join NCP. But the latest was his secret talks with the Congress and that his associate Shebahad met the Congress leaders in Delhi. The former chief minister gave the BJP a shock by suddenly praising the Congress president Sonia Gandhi this week, which delighted the Congress leaders who are watching the fun. The recent income tax raids in the residence of a distant relative of the Andhra Congress MP actor Chiranjeevi has poured cold water in his hopes of Congress supporting him in his legal cases.
The third is floating his own outfit and find alliance partners before the polls. If he makes up his mind soon, then he can really launch this regional outfit and build it up with his resources and influence.
Although the BJP chief Nitin Gadkari has fielded Leader of Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley to mollify Yediyurappa with promises of support in fighting his legal cases and counseling patience, the truce could only be a temporary one. A belligerent Yediyurappa withdrew from his bid to split the BJP after Arun Jaitley assuaged his feelings.
This round of threat has not gone well for Yediyurappa but that will not deter the Lingayat leader to pursue his goals further. The ground is slipping under his feet. The only advantage is that the BJP national leadership is weak. The BJP chief is facing indiscipline from all around. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi refuses to go to Mumbai where the national executive of the party next week may endorse another term for Gadkari. Only recently the BJP leadership doused fire from Rajasthan where the former chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had opposed the yatra proposed by the former state BJP chief Kataria. In Jharkhand the BJP candidate S.S. Ahluwalia lost his Rajya Sabha nomination because of infighting in the party. It would auger well for the BJP leadership to set its house in order and the sooner it does the better. It is imperative for the BJP to do so, when there is need for a vigorous opposition and the Lok Sabha poll is approaching. (IPA Service)