Bangalore, Jan 11: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) increasingly demonstrates that it is becoming a party of contradictions, at least in Karnataka, as it tries to cash in on the strong national mood against corruption while depending on local leader B.S. Yeddyurappa, who is fighting several corruption cases, to shore up its declining fortunes in the state.
It is true that Yeddyurappa, the BJP’s first chief minister in the state, was desperate to return to the party after his gamble of leading a regional outfit flopped in the Karnataka assembly elections last May. The Karnataka Janata Party which he headed after quitting BJP in Dec 2012 won merely six seats in the 225-member assembly and its performance in the Lok Sahba elections in April-May was widely expected to be worse.
But the BJP was so shattered by its own poor show in the assembly polls – it won just 40 seats – that it swallowed its pride and junked high-sounding slogans like “No place for the corrupt in the party” to get back Yeddyurappa, believing his return will help the party win at least 20 of Karnataka’s 28 Lok Sabha seats.
Riding on the mood against BJP as its tenure under Yeddyurappa between 2008 and 2011 was marred by various scandals – rape, corruption and illegal land deals – the Congress returned to power in the state, bagging 122 seats in the assembly. The Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) took 40 seats and smaller parties the remaining 16 seats.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, when the BJP was in power, it had won 19 of the 28 seats. The Congress, then the main opposition party, had bagged six and the JD-S three.
Yeddurappa’s keenness to return to BJP and its eagerness to take him back appears to be no more than a tale of two weak parties coming together in the hope of becoming strong to fight the rejuvenated Congress in the state on the plank of corruption of the central government headed by that party.
Hence, in Karnataka, the April-May Lok Sabha elections will be a battle between corruption at the central level during the Congress-led UPA and the BJP’s corruption during its first and only rule in the state.
In this context, there is doubt in political circles about the BJP benefitting much by taking back Yeddyurappa as his influence over the voters, particularly from the Lingayat community to which he belongs, was on the wane after he quit the party and headed the KJP.
The BJP grabbed power in the 2008 assembly elections under Yeddyurappa’s leadership mainly because the Lingayat community, which constitues 17 percent of the state’s over 60 million population, is believed to have voted in large numbers for the party.
Though it is claimed that public memory is short, Karnataka voters are not likely to forget that easily the abuses that BJP and Yeddyurappa hurled at each other after he quit the party.
The BJP had dismissed any negative impact on it from Yeddyurappa leaving the party and cited examples of Uttar Pradesh leader Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharati of Madhya Pradesh and Keshubhai Patel of Gujarat, who virtually became non-entities in political field after leaving the BJP.
Yeddyurappa had called the state BJP leaders “back-stabbers” and had vowed never to return to the party.
Despite the BJP’s experience of not gaining from the return of Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharati, the party has opted to bank on Yeddyurappa, a clear indication that it is in a desparate situation in Karnataka in spite of claiming a wave across the country in favour of the party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Apparently the BJP believes that it is on a weak wicket in Karnataka and Yeddyurappa’s return may help it cut losses even though the move reflects poorly on the party.
(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)