Karnataka politics suddenly finds itself in a state of flux ever since BJP central leadership announced former chief minister B.S.Yeddyurappa as its Karnataka Unit President. While in the ruling Congress party, the demand to replace Siddaramaiah by S.M.Krishna has gained momentum, the JD (S) supremo H.D.Deve Gowda is said to be toying with the idea of joining NDA, which sounds interesting but not intriguing.
The demand of the Congressmen to bring S.M.Krishna back as chief minister is quite understandable. In their view, the stocks of the Congress government has been steadily going down and continuation of Siddaramaiah – with a laid-back attitude – will be suicidal for the party. This impression has further gained credibility with the appointment of Yeddyurappa as BJP state president, who is mercurial and a hard task-master whose energy to go round the state to mobilise people has no match, not only in other parties but also within the BJP. Moreover, Siddaramaiah, in his eagerness to endear himself to the Ahinda constituency (Dalits, Backward Classes and Minorities), has allowed his government to be described as anti-upper caste – Vokkaligas, Lingayaths and Brahmins. This is something unusual for the Congress which was otherwise known as the only party which had the tact, tenacity and wherewithal to maintain social balance.
But with Siddaramaiah inviting the wrath of the socially-forward, politically-volatile and electorally-crucial communities – Vokkaligas and Lingayaths – the Congress leadership in Karnataka is trying to apprise the High Command the need to effect change of leadership, preferably someone who belongs to the Vokkaliga community and a senior leader who can command respect of all the factions. The choice has narrowed down to S.M.Krishna, notwithstanding his age.
The high command, on its part, is wary of disturbing Siddaramaiah as it is not aware of his move in the aftermath of his removal. Whether will he remain loyal to the party or quit Congress to form his own Ahinda group to play the role of a king-maker if, in the event, the elections throw up a hung Assembly in 2018? The party is clueless about this vital and crucial issue and has decided to adopt wait-and-watch policy, at least till the elections to five states are completed. After Assam, Karnataka is the big state where Congress is in power. With uncertainty looming large over its prospects in Assam, the Congress high command is not unwise to be foolhardy in Karnataka.
On the other side, JD (S) supremo and former Prime Minister H.D.Deve Gowda is said to be making attempts to cosy up to NDA, though the leadership – whatever it means in this party – is not ready either to confirm or to deny the move. Recently, Gowda called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi ostensibly to request him to resolve the Mahadayi river water dispute between Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra. But why will Gowda meet Modi alone, if the subject matter of discussion is about river water dispute? There is no answer to this, rather, valid question.
A wily politician who is known for crafting deep-rooted ploys to achieve a long-term objective, Gowda’s aim is to ensure that his party survives in the 2018 assembly elections by winning at least a respectable number of about 50 to 60 seats. There has been a talk of some JD (S) MLAs toying with the idea of joining either the Congress or BJP, depending upon which way the wind would blow in 2018.
“The paradise of politics lies at the feet of the people”
A man of mathematical precision; razor sharp articulation; an eloquent speaker in Kannada who makes millions spell-bound; a conscientious leader with his hands always on the state’s pulse and mind glancing the vast land between Bidar in North to Chamarajanagar and Coorg in South, Yeddyurappa has rightly earned the epithet “stormy petral of Karnataka politics” for his sustained struggle on one issue or the other, especially, that of peasants and agricultural labours, as well as constant tour of the state. The only mass leader in Karnataka BJP in particular and in state’s political scenario in general, Yeddyurappa was recently asked to assume the mantle of the Presidentship of Karnataka BJP by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah.
“I am aware that the road ahead for me is not bed of roses but I am confident of strengthening the party at all strata starting from grass-root level by taking everybody into confidence. There is a silent economic revolution going on at the grass-root level following a number of schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana, Mudra banking, Start Up and Stand Up India that are going to be a qualitative game-changer in favour of the BJP, both in Karnataka as well as at the Centre,” Yeddyurappa said, in his exclusive conversation with Uday India Special Correspondent, S.A. Hemantha Kumar, a day after his selection was announced by the central party headquarters. Excerpts:
Q What are your short-term and long-term goals?
Go on whirl wind tour of the state, perhaps, to the hobli level, and further consolidate the strength of the party by involving all section and strata of the society; simultaneously carry on a zealous agitation against the misdeeds and anti-people policies of the state government; in the long-term take all necessary steps to ensure that the BJP gets an absolute majority on its own in the 2018 hustings based on positive vote and not necessarily on the anti-incumbency factor that is going to prevail at the time of elections.
Q You said that the BJP will seek a positive vote in 2018 elections based on the performance of government in Karnataka and that at the Centre. How can you defend and justify Karnataka BJP government? Does the party earn a bad name?
Elections are fought on perception. The people’s perception about the BJP government was that the leaders quarreled and hence voted against the party. But the performance of the BJP government under all the three chief ministers was really good. That is the reality but it was eclipsed by the internecine quarrel among the leaders. It is really unfortunate. The people were really impressed by our performance. It is almost akin to what happened to the Janata Party government of 1977 at the Centre. The performance of the first-ever non-Congress government headed by Prime Minister Morarji Desai was remarkable; but the public conduct and behaviour of some of the leaders both at the government and the party level was abominable. BJP government too in Karnataka suffered from this malady. But we have learnt lessons from that sordid episode.
Q How can you say that the performance of your two successors was good?
No matter who becomes the chief minister, the policies and pro-people programmes stems from our ideology which says Nation First. We prepare our manifesto on the basis of our economic ideology Ekatma Manav Vaad (Integral Humanism) enunciated and propounded by Pandit Deenadayal Upadhyaya. Its fundamental principle is Antyodaya, that is take care of the poorest of the poor. BJP is a people-centric party; all programmes, be it economic or political or social is for the benefit of the people; the poorest among the poor. The policies and programmes were implemented by my successors and hence the performance of the BJP government in Karnataka under my successors was really impressive.
And I do not have to say about the performance of the Modi-led BJP government at the Centre. Millions of youth, both boys and girls as well as women from poor and middle-class are benefitted by scores of schemes such as Mudra banking, Start Up India and Stand Up India and Jan Dhan Yojana.
These are really revolutionary and unprecedented in nature; our opposition friends are still not aware of the silent economic revolution that is taking place at the grass-roots level; the youth and the women at the lowest rung of the society will cause a qualitative game changer in favour of the BJP; our friends in the Opposition parties are busy in criticising Modi and BJP and that has made them blind to the changes that are taking place. Let them continue with their futile exercise; I wish them all the best; the people are with us.
Q How do you feel having quit the party once and now taking over as the BJP chief of Karnataka?
I do look back for two reasons; (i) to draw inspiration from the service and sacrifice of millions of Karyakarthas and elders who have toiled hard throughout their life; (ii) to draw appropriate lessons committed by me so that I remain extra careful. There is saying; Let bygones be bygones. I have said it umpteem times. Time is the best healer and time has answer to all the questions.
Q Congress leaders taunt you and describe as the person who presided over corrupt regime. Your comment.
- The same Congress leaders grudgingly admit in private that the BJP government under my leadership performed indeed well. That is a different matter which cannot be divulged. But fact of the matter is that no courts have found me guilty; I have got relief from the judiciary; there are only two cases pending. I am confident of getting relief in those two cases also. Levelling charges and making allegations are easy; it can tarnish one’s image which is assiduously built over several decades by tears, blood and sweat; but I have been a fighter ever since I entered public life five-decades ago; I will continue to fight for the cause of the people, especially, the farmers, poor and the weaker section of society. I derive strength from the people; they are my masters;
Q So you mean to say that you have almost succeeded in this trial by fire?
This trial by fire has enabled me to emerge stronger in purpose and clearer in mind. This long-drawn legal battle, which is almost coming to a close, has made my commitments to certain values even more intense than they were before. My conscience is clear; I have not done anything legally wrong.
In order to arrest this possible outflow from his party, Gowda thinks joining hands with the BJP and entering into an alliance with the saffron party in 2018 Assembly elections is the only way. And to this achieve this long-term plan, Gowda wants to cozy up to NDA right now. The step-by-step plan is to make his son, former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy a Rajya Sabha MP and prevail upon the Prime Minister to make him cabinet minister. Once JD (S) becomes part of NDA, then the BJP in Karnataka will be forced to make Gowda’s party an electoral partner in 2018!
Interestingly, some BJP leaders, especially considered to be Yeddyurappa’s detractors within the party, are also in favour of this idea. The goal is to cut Yeddyurappa to size; force him to accept for an electoral understanding with JD (S); the move to allow JD (S) enter NDA fold is to create a “fait accompli” situation for Yeddyurappa in 2018.
The “quid pro quo” for this ‘JD (S) in NDA fold’ arrangement is that the JD (S) will part ways with Congress in Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and join hands with BJP which has won 100 out of 198 seats in the elections held in 2015. The BJP candidate would become Mayor and the Deputy Mayor would be from the JD (S). This is acceptable to many BJP leaders, mostly stationed in Bengaluru. But with Yeddyurappa setting his sights at the entire Karnataka and not just Bengaluru, he is not likely to accept this move being made by wily Gowda and who is being indirectly supported by the detractors of Lingayat strongman.
For, any alliance with the JD (S) means the BJP will have to part at least 80 to 100 seats and also share power (preferably deputy chief minister and several affluent portfolios) after coming to power in 2018. This is totally unacceptable to BJP cadre, throughout the state though there would be a few handful leaders who have been and would like to continue to be on the right side of Gowda. Yeddyurappa, on his part, has decided to take both the bull (Congress and JDS) by its horns and create a tempest in Karnataka by undertaking a relentless state-wide tour from April 24, 2016.
By S.A. hemanth kumar, from Bengaluru