Why BJP's woes in Karnataka are still not over
Despite a new chief minister, the BJP's troubles in the state are not over. They are just beginning, writes Aditi Phadnis
Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa was holidaying with his family in Mauritius when the report by Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, indicting the chief minister for criminal conspiracy in illegal mining, came out.
On July 22, Bharatiya Janata Party President Nitin Gadkari said he had seen only press reports about the Lok Ayukta report and would take a decision after he had seen the full report.
On July 25, the BJP president said, "I have spoken to Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddyurappa and he said that as the party chief whatever I will decide, he will obey. I never take political decisions on the basis of perception. When we get the Lokayukta report, we will take the right and appropriate action on the Karnataka issue."
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Image: Gadkari with Yeddyurappa
It was only after Advani nudged that the action was taken
Between July 22 and 25, Gadkari's office got several calls.
The most important of these -- more than one -- was from L K Advani who asked him, as politely as he could, when he would take action against Yeddyurappa.
Why wait for the report, Advani suggested, why not just ask the chief minister to step down; the controversy was hurting the party.
Those privy to the developments say till then Gadkari had half a mind not to ask Yeddyurappa to go at all.
After all, why should a mere report become the reason for a minister to step down? It was only after Advani nudged that the action was taken.
From party with a diffrence to party with differences
The next step was appointing a successor. Senior leaders Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley were despatched to Bangalore to consult with members of the legislative assembly. The BJP is now upholding this as an example of great inner-party democracy.
But insiders argue that it is actually a diminution of the high command's authority. The MLAs were never asked if Vasundhara Raje Scindia or Gen B C Khanduri or Raman Singh or even Narendra Modi would be acceptable to MLAs.
The high command decided that these individuals would represent the element of "a party with a difference" in the state and were sent there. "Now it is a party with differences" quipped a member.
Anyway, the two central observers met MLAs and were on the verge of anointing D V Sadananda Gowda as chief minister (supported by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh functionary Prabhakar Bhatt who moved heaven and earth to gather support for Gowda) when the Ananth Kumar-led faction said it would be a travesty of justice and fair play if their claim was not heard by the two observers.
The matter was postponed for two days.
Yeddyurappa's last two acts as CM
A suggestion was made to K Diwakar, chairman of Karnataka State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation and Yeddyurappa appointee, to convey to the chief minister that the party interest was being hurt in his rivalry with Ananth Kumar and a peace deal must be brokered.
When Diwakar made the suggestion, the chief minister did not say anything at first.
But on his last day in office, he took two decisions: one, he okayed the denotification of a parcel of land that had a recommendation from Gowda on the file (this, by way of insurance for the future) and, two, he sacked Diwakar from the chairmanship.
Which CM in the past has had the guts to do what Yeddy did?
Much has been made of the caste base of the Lingayat community that Yeddyurappa has built for himself in the party.
But it is not just this popularity that kept him in the saddle as chief minister for over three years. It is also the patronage he enjoyed with the high command.
This came out when he held a press conference to say Gowda must be made chief minister.
"If Sadananda Gowda is not made chief minister, Nitin Gadkari will resign as party president," he announced.
Which chief minister in the past has had the guts to do that?
Never in the history of the BJP have MLAs belonging to different camps been sequestered in different hotels to prevent poaching! Never has so much money been involved in the appointment of a new chief minister, party members say.
It is clear that Gowda is going to have his hands full
And never has the BJP's top leadership been so hands-on in ushering in a new chief minister.
It is clear that Gowda is going to have his hands full.
There is hardly any doubt that the devil will demand his due and he will have to guard Yeddyurappa's interests.
This will be accentuated by the decision, which party leaders say is inevitable, to come into the legislature via the legislative council -- because there isn't a single constituency in the entire state where Gowda can win on his own.
And then there is the question of the Reddy brothers from Bellary. If the Lok Ayukta report indicts Yeddyurappa, it is equally critical of the role played by them in illegal mining. So the new chief minister will be playing with fire if he appoints them ministers.
On the other hand, 14 MLAs in the 120-member BJP legislature party are in complete thrall of the Reddy brothers. What will Gowda do about that?
Image: Sadananda Gowda