Political Compulsion & Electoral Pragmatism
Two Factors Behind Yeddyurappa’s Re-Entry Into BJP
By SA Hemantha Kumar from Bengaluru
Political compulsion and electoral pragmatism are the two buzz words making rounds in Karnataka BJP and which are being used to justify the re-entry of former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa into the party. However, none of the leaders are ready to say it in open and come on record. “We do not want the anti-Congress votes to get split and Congress wins by default. That is why we have invited Yeddyurappa to return to the party,” state BJP president and Dharwad MP Prahlad Joshi told Uday India.
But in this ‘prodigal son returning home’ episode, it is quite obvious that the BJP’s electoral calculation has weighed more than anything else. The BJP is of the view that the Backward Class Kurubas might throw their weight in a major way behind Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who is also a Kuruba. And if the Muslims consolidate behind the Congress due to Modi factor, then the Congress would be in a formidable position. “In this background, it is imperative for us to get the large chunk of Lingayat votes, which is possible only by Yeddyurappa. Otherwise, it would be difficult to win,” is the common refrain of the state BJP leaders.
BJP’s internal assessment is that without Yeddyurappa the party can win about four to seven seats and with the Lingayat strongman, the BJP could have a decent number of about 15. “Though Modi wave exists, the division in the anti-Congress votes could mar our prospects. We do not want to take the risk, especially when every seat and every vote counts, in order to reach the magic number of 272+,” another leader confided.
But what is more important in the ‘let-us-bring-Yeddyurappa-back’ chorus is the absence of a mass leader to encash Modi wave and convert into votes. As known to everyone, who is a keen observer of political and electoral politics, two aspects are very essential to channelise the wave in favour of one’s party and then convert into votes—mass leader and strong cadre. Both these—mass leader and strong cadre—are conspicuous by their absence in Karnataka BJP today. While the mass leader—Yeddyurappa—quit and formed his own outfit, Karnataka Janata Party, the strong cadre remains demoralised following the party’s severe drubbing in the May 2013 Assembly elections. The dimension of the defeat can be gauged by the fact that the BJP lost deposit in 111 Assembly segments, which makes up to 14 Lok Sabha seats out of the total 28.
“I will put my best foot forward and walk that extra mile to see Modiji as PM– BS Yeddyurappa
The Lingayat strongman BS Yeddyurappa claimed that BJP government’s performance was really good in terms of politics, programmes and schemes, but image and credibility suffered due to bad conduct of individuals and, false, baseless and politically motivated allegations of corruption sank the BJP. Changing his venue of morning walk from Vidhana Soudha to Indian Institute of Science Campus only to speak to Uday India’s Special Correspondent SA Hemantha Kumar, Yeddyurappa’s 55-minute talk and walk with this correspondent was marked by three Fs and one S—free, frank, forthright and sincerity. He looked determined and confidence-personified, when he spoke of embarking upon a state-wide tour, something which he is fond of—a stormy petrel of Karnataka politics always with wheels in his leg is the epithet which he has rightly earned, both by his critics and by his admirers. Yeddyurappa has decided to merge his KJP with the BJP following the appeal made by the saffron party’s leadership to return to the party-fold. A formal invitation to return to the party was made by the state leadership recently. And he rejoined the party on January 9. The exit of this Lingayat strongman, whose party polled 10 per cent of votes and bagged six seats, cost the BJP dearly as its number in the Assembly came down from 122 to 40 in the May 2013 elections. Excerpts:
What led you to re-join the BJP?
■ Millions of Indians want to see Modiji as the Prime Minister. They have pinned their hopes on him (Modiji) that he will steer our nation away from the existing chaos and anarchy towards peace and progress. This is an opportunity bestowed to all of us by history to create a new and promising future. I do not want to miss this opportunity and hence I would like to plunge into the rashtriya yajna, which is going on throughout the country to ensure the victory of nationalist forces. This has made me to re-join the BJP.
Is there any condition on your part to re-join the BJP?
■ There is no condition on my part to re-join the BJP, except that my supporters need to be respected and not insulted or humiliated. I do not ask for any position. I intend to go on a whirlwind tour of the entire state, with twin objectives of galvanising the cadre as well as mobilising the people’s opinion in favour of the BJP, headed by Narendra Modi. I would take it up as the biggest challenge ever faced by me in my five decades of political life. In fact, I will put my best foot forward and walk that extra mile to see Modijji as PM.
How do you see the past incidents?
■ The past is past. I intend to learn and draw appropriate lessons from the history. I never had any ideological differences with the BJP. My only pain was that I was very badly let down by my own friends and colleagues. This made me go away from home. Now, time has come to be a part of the great family. God has given me strength to say let bygones be bygones. Now, I would like to channelise all my energy and concentration with the sole objective of making the BJP win maximum number of Lok Sabha.
By ensuring BJP’s defeat in the last Assembly elections in Karnataka, have you proved that you are indispensable?
■ I do not want to prove anything. Nobody is indispensable. Mother India has potential to throw people with mettle and character in order to rise to the occasion. I walked out of the BJP only because I was pained and hurt that my own friends and colleagues did not stand by me, when I needed them most. But it is all past; I have forgotten it.
It is time-tested that politics is not only arithmetic but also chemistry. As long as the chemistry between the people does not work properly, it is difficult to achieve the desired objective. How will you ensure this factor?
■ I am aware of the difficulties my supporters will face in the BJP. I am not bothered about myself as I have decided not to ask any position. But the only request I placed with the BJP leadership is not to humiliate or cajole my supporters, no matter they are given position or not. It would be difficult to work in the atmosphere of humiliation and suspicion. I hope that situation does not come as the BJP’s central leadership is serious in getting things right and putting things in proper place.
What is your comment on the issue of differences with Ananth Kumar?
■ When I said past is past and let bygones be bygones, it includes everything and everybody. There is no need for me to point out every individual. Differences are bound to exist in public life but I have decided to focus on unity and strength instead of past acrimony. When Modiji has made millions of our fellow countrymen to work towards unity of the nation, who do not belong either to the BJP or to the Sangh Pariwar, then I think we should not harp on our petty differences and one-upmanship. I have no ill-will against anybody. I will behave, conduct and function as an ordinary grassroots activist of the party.
What would you say about the charges of corruption on you and if these charges could blunt the BJP’s otherwise sharp attack on the Congress?
■ Mere allegations are not sufficient to make anybody look like a villain. In any case, I resigned from the post of Chief Minister when Lok Ayukta report on illegal mining mentioned my name, though wrongly. But that report has been quashed by the Karnataka High Court, which means that there is no substance in the Lok Ayukta’s report and allegations. In other cases too, I have got relief. So, that (charges of corruption) will not cause any problem.
Finally, what would you say to your supporters?
■ The image of the government suffered badly due to baseless and politically motivated allegations. The conduct and behaviour of some of our friends was un-BJP like, which made our supporters feel sad. This is going to be corrected in the next coming days. But, the BJP government’s performance in terms of policies, programmmes and schemes was really good. It is here I would like to draw appropriate lessons from the history.
This hard fact and harsh reality dawned on the state leadership, who were initially hesitant to invite the Lingayat strongman, but later realised the need to get the mass leader back in the party fold. Senior BJP leader Ramachandra Gowda explained, “In 1983 Assembly elections, there was anti-Congress wave throughout Karnataka, but BJP won only 18 seats, whereas the Janata Party won 89 seats. That is because the BJP never had a mass leader and the cadre was not very strong throughout the state. The BJP won wherever our cadre was strong, like Dakshina Kannada, Mysore, parts of Hubli, Shimoga, etc. In rest of the places, the Janata Party won because it had mass leaders like Ramakrishna Hegde, HD Deve Gowda, SR Bommai, etc, and also had party units throughout the state. In this background, I made several attempts to prevail upon the state and central leadership of the BJP to bring Yeddyurappa back to the party. I am happy that he has agreed to forget the past and start a new chapter to make Modi the Prime Minister.”
Ramachandra Gowda exudes optimism that the BJP will win about 22 seats with the help of Yeddyurappa as well as Modi wave. “I know the pulse of the people,” he said and added, “The BJP cadre is all motivated and will work with zeal now as Yeddyurappa is going to be back in the party. His re-entry into the BJP has already sent a right message to all sections of society,” this former minister and sitting MLC added.