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Is the Karnataka political crisis over? Of course not!

Last updated on: July 9, 2012 14:03 IST

Is the Karnataka political crisis over?

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The BJP's decision to bow down to the caste equation in the state may backfire, points out Vicky Nanjappa

Bharatiya Janata Party President Nitin Gadkari has made it clear that caste is a major factor in Karnataka politics after he agreed to replace Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda with Jagadish Shettar, a leader from the Lingayat community.

The BJP had come to power in Karnataka largely on the support of the Lingayat vote-bank which comprises 17 per cent of the state's 6.5 crore population.

B S Yeddyurappa, who projected himself as a Lingayat leader, was asked to step down from the CM's post after he faced a number of corruption charges. The BJP's decision did not go down too well with the powerful Lingayat mutts across the state, which did not even agree to a chief ministerial candidate backed by a Lingayat leader.

The BJP's decision to bow down to the caste equation may backfire. Political analysts fear that a showdown between Yeddyurappa and Shettar -- the two tallest Lingayat leaders in the BJP -- may force the state to go to polls in a few months.

Shettar, who originally belonged to a faction opposed to the controversial former CM, seems to have patched up with Yeddyurappa, who has the support of several legislators.

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Image: B S Yeddyurappa


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Yeddyurappa is still considered to be the main leader of the Lingayat community but political observers believe that Shettar will start eating into the former CM's support base. The two leaders have shared an unpleasant relationship for a long time. The friendly relations between the two leaders is only due to current political compulsions and may not last too long

When Yeddyurappa came to power, he made Shettar the Speaker of the assembly to keep him out of the state cabinet.  Shettar got a ministerial position only after the Reddy brothers staged a coup and threatened to topple the Yeddyurappa government.

Yeddyurappa has always perceived Shettar as a potential threat and suggested Sadananda Gowda's name for the CM's post to the party top brass when he was stepping down. The former CM decided to bat for a Vokkaliga (Gowda) instead of a Lingayat (Shettar) in the hot seat.

There are two versions of the events that followed. Gowda's supporters claim that Yeddyurappa has started acting like a 'super CM' and it had become impossible to handle him. The Yeddyurappa faction, on the other hand, claimed that Gowda had become close to Janata Dal-Secular chief H D Deve Gowda and was trying to build the Vokkaliga vote-bank.

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Image: Jagdish Shettar


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Is the Karnataka political crisis over?

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Yeddyurappa had no choice but to propose the name of Shettar to replace Gowda. The BJP faction opposed to Yeddyurappa -- led by party leader Ananth Kumar and others -- did not object to the nomination of Shettar as he was their original candidate for the CM's post. The Lingayat mutts also advised Yeddyurappa to play the role of a kingmaker and make a Lingayat leader the chief minister.

With the appointment of Shettar, Yeddyurappa loses a major bargaining chip. During Gowda's regime, he often claimed that the Lingayat community would not spare the BJP during the next election. This claim falls flat on its face with a Lingayat leader in the CM's post. To make matters worse for the wily leader, Shettar also has the support of all the Lingayat mutts.

The manner in which Yeddyurappa conducts himself will decide his political future. While he is a more acceptable face today in the BJP, Yeddyurappa has corruption charges against him while Shettar has a clean image. Shettar is considered to be easily approachable unlike Yeddyurappa, who is known to be short tempered and moody.

For the time being, BJP may avoid fireworks as Shettar is likely to oblige Yeddyurappa. But the newly minted Karnataka CM may start solidifying his base and try to emerge as a parallel force in the state BJP.

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Image: Sadananda Gowda


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