Tina Factor Key to Yeddyurappa’s Survival
Beating the odds and surviving from the worst crises seem to have become second nature to Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa. The first-ever BJP Chief Minister in the south, who has faced a series of political crises during the last 32 months since he assumed power, is now in the eye of yet another political storm in the form of the sanction of the Governor HR Bhardwaj for his prosecution.
With the Governor, who has turned out to be a more vociferous Yeddyurappa-baiter than even the combined Congress and JD(S) opposition parties, openly sanctioning the request by two city-based advocates to prosecute the Chief Minister on the allegations of land scams and other irregularities in the allotment of sites or denotifications, it is worthwhile to take a hard and objective look at the situation.
Let us consider the facts: The CM has been accused of allotting sites to his sons and other family members. Though there is nothing illegal in the allotments per se, it must be noted that the CM did not deny, nor did he try to cover up but went to the extent of ensuring that the beneficiaries surrender the favours. Incidentally, there is no legal bar against denotifications. In fairness to the CM, almost all his predecessors have indulged in allotment of sites, denotifications and other acts of nepotism and favouritism in the past. In fact, some of the past CMs—who are leading the oust of Yeddyurappa campaign—have been guilty of even worse scams and other irregularities.
That the Governor, who had publicly stated that he was proud to have been a Congressman, seems to be having a single-point agenda to somehow unseat the BJP government and thereby serve his political masters, is evident from his conduct from the moment he landed in Karnataka.
While there have been a few instances of Governors according sanction to prosecute CMs or cabinet ministers in the past, the number of times such permissions were denied are even more. It is evident that political considerations rather than legal or ethical norms matter in such decisions.
Another most common grievance or criticism against Yeddyurappa is with regard to the menace of illegal mining. But here again, it is Yeddyurappa, who implemented some of the most tough and harsh steps to curb illegal mining and transportation besides imposing several other curbs.
There is no need to recount the virulent campaign unleashed by the opposition Congress and JD(S) parties against Yeddyurappa and BJP. In fact, the Opposition seems to be directed more against Yeddyurappa than the BJP. Incidentally, the CM faced a series of problems and dissidence from within as much as from outside.
Why did Yeddyurppa become such a hated figure? It is mainly because even his detractors know that BJP without Yeddyurappa is just an empty shell and that but for Yeddyurappa’s hard work, zeal and single-minded dedication the party would not have become such a formidable force that it is today. True, several other leaders and almost all the rank and file have contributed their might. But it is Yeddyurappa, who is the sole guiding force, behind BJP’s climb to the top.
For a man, who started from humble beginnings as an ordinary RSS worker imbued with missionary spirit and commitment but without fancy education or great administrative experience, Yeddyurappa has now become one of the star performing CMs all over the country. Even as he completed two years in office, he has earned the distinction of heading a state which is adjudged by the Congress-led UPA regime as the number two state in the implementation of the 20-point economic programme among all states, closely behind BJP-ruled Gujarat under the dynamic and illustrious leadership of Narendra Modi, who had completed 10 years of chief ministership. Not just that. The state has won several awards, laurels and accolades in different fields.
Indeed, Yeddyurappa, who narrowly missed a simple majority in the state assembly and had to rely upon the support extended by independents to become CM, managed to secure a clear majority in the by-elections caused by the resignations of MLAs elected on Congress or JD(S) tickets to join and contest on BJP symbol under the widely criticised “Operation Lotus,” which again is a legitimate political exercise practised by almost all political parties at the Centre and in the states, including Karnataka, in the past. The Congress did the same in Rajasthan, not long ago.
In addition to the electoral victory, in majority of the assembly by-elections after coming to power, Yeddyurappa has recorded impressive gains in the Lok Sabha elections and also in the civic polls, starting with a first-ever BJP victory in the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike elections, bagging most of the cooperative bodies and agricultural produce marketing committees, the grama panchayats and more recently the taluk and zilla panchayats. BJP has thus firmly entrenched itself not only in the urban but even in the rural areas.
Whether one likes Yeddyurappa’s style of functioning or not, there is no denying the fact that he is perhaps the most-travelled CM inside the state covering almost every district not once but several times. He is, perhaps, the only CM who spends 18 to 20 hours a day on work and has never taken a break except perhaps visiting temples and holy places.
“WE ARE FIGHTING CORRUPTION”—Siddaramaiah
Siddaramaiah, leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly, is virtually waging a war on ruling BJP. He has taken particularly Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa and his corruption and nepotism charges as a triggering point to take it to a logical conclusion. Siddaramaiah who is even today considered an outsider by many in the Congress is virtually leading the battle against BJP. His intention now is to throw out this government at any cost. Siddaramaiah, in a brief interview to Uday India correspondent Maya Jaideep shared his thoughts. Excerpts:
How do you rate this government?
This is the most corrupt government I have seen so far. The Chief Minister is involved in many scams and is also caught. This is a corrupt government and we will fight till he quits. In fact after the court case the Chief Minister has no moral right to continue in the office. Yeddyurappa is involved in land scams and de-notification of lands by KIADB (Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board). He is also involved in charges of nepotism. He has also misused G category sites by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA). What kind of right he has to continue in office?
Do you continue fighting him?
Yes, of course. Our party and Congress leaders are fighting mis-rule by the BJP and its Chief Minister Yeddyurappa. We are fighting corruption.
What is next?
As I said we will fight till he (Yeddyurappa) quits. How can he continue in office? When Governor gave his nod to prosecute the Chief Minister he should have quit and come clean. But he is so adamant and still continuing in the office. We will fight. The Congress party in Karnataka is going to fight and further expose the BJP and its Chief Minister.
Your walk to Bellary…
The Congress took it as a challenge to tell the people of the state about the misdeeds of the ruling BJP. We took out a 320-km padayatra from here to Bellary on July 25. That was a padayatra—a walk to protect Karnataka against the misrule of the BJP government and plundering of natural resources. That was also to protest against illegal mining. We are now having Nadarakshana rallies (protect the state from BJP) and it will continue. We already held these rallies in Gulbarga and Mysore. Our aim is to fight this corrupt government.
Yeddyurappa regime’s performance, the impact of the developmental works and all the pro-people, farmer-friendly programmes and populist schemes and, of course, the disarray among the Opposition Congress and JD(S) were the main factors in BJP’s spectacular rise to the top.
Another key reason for Yeddyurappa’s growing popularity, almost to the point of invincibility, is his pull among the politically powerful and dominant Lingayat community, which holds sway in at least 100 out of the 224 assembly constituencies, especially in northern Karnataka. He is acknowledged as the most powerful Lingayat community leader. The very fact that most of the Lingayat seers saw nothing wrong in openly coming out in support of Yeddyurappa forcing the BJP high command to retrace its decision in favour of change of leadership over the alleged land scams speaks volumes of the CM’s clout among the Lingayats.
The other politically powerful Vokkaliga community, which wields considerable pull in the southern or old Mysore regions, is almost solidly rallying round the JD(S) led by former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy. However, the Congress party also has a substantial following among the community with the likes of SM Krishna, DK Shivakumar, Ambarish and TB Jayachandra nibbling at the Vokkaliga base.
Among the other backward-class communities, the numerically large Kurubas consider Congress leader Siddaramaiah their hero, though BJP state president KS Eshwarappa also belongs to the community. Incidentally, political circles are agog with rumours of Siddaramaiah’s possible shift to JD(S) in order to become CM. Minorities and Dalits and other backward class communities, which used to be considered the Congress vote-banks, can no longer be taken for granted, given the fact that BJP has made steady inroads.
“I AM A HUMBLE POLITICAL ACTIVIST” —BS Yeddyurappa
A determined, suave and down-to-earth BS Yeddyurappa has proved that he is the undisputed leader of BJP in Karnataka. Under his agile stewardship, the BJP government recently completed 1000 days in office. Imbued with missionary zeal and commitment, he claims to have increased the party’s base and minimised the influence of both the Congress and the JD(S) in the state considerably. In an exclusive interview to Uday India’s Editor-in-Chief Prakash Nanda, the Chief Minister of Karnataka talks on various issues concerning his government and the party. Excerpts:
Are you going to complete your term or prefer someone else on your position till you clear yourself from the so-called corruption charges?
Let me make it absolutely clear that I will complete my term. The inquiry on the so-called corruption charges will take its own course. There is no question of my quitting the post. I am sure, I will come clean in the inquiry.
Will you stake a second term or move to the Centre?
It is a highly hypothetical question. I can assure that I will complete my term with the support of my party leaders and the people of the state. As far as second term is concerned, my party will have a final word in this regard.
How cohesive is your government?
No one need to have even an iota of doubt about the cohesion in my government. All my colleagues have complete trust in the collective leadership.
You have had a charmed life as the Chief Minister so to say. What are your main achievements?
They are many. Briefly I can mention the following.
- a) Karnataka is the first state to unveil ‘Vision 2020’ for comprehensive development and thereby it provides a model for the entire country.
- b) Farmers, weavers and fishermen are given short-term loans at the lowest interest rate of 3 per cent.
- c) A state-level Knowledge Commission is set up.
- d) It is the first state in the country to implement Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana.
- e) Bhagyalakshmi Scheme is the unique one in the country the maturity value of which is enhanced to Rs 1 lakh.
- f) Two Districts—Gulbarga and Belgaum—received National Awards for successful implementation of NREGS.
- g) Karnataka is the first state to implement ‘Bhoochetana’ Scheme for increasing agricultural productivity by adopting scientific cultivation practices in dry land areas.
- h) Private participation has been facilitated in the interest of the state.
(i) ‘ABIDE’ is functioning under the guidance of industrialist Mr Rajiv Chandrasekhar for formulating a blueprint for the development of infrastructure in Bengaluru.
(ii) A Task Force is functioning to develop IT and BT sectors under the chairmanship of Infosys Managing Director Mr Cris Gopalkrishna.
(iii) Another Task Force to develop scientific temperament among our youth is functioning under the chairmanship of well-known scientist Prof CNR Rao.
You began your politics by championing the cause of the farmers. Are the farmers in Karnataka happy with you?
My government is committed to the cause of the farmers. I took oath of the office of the Chief Minister in the name of the farmers. I hail from a farming family. I know the difficulties our annadatas are facing.
My government has given utmost importance to agriculture. The state has implemented a scheme, which is one of its kind in the entire country, to increase agricultural productivity by adopting scientific cultivation practices in dry land areas. An ‘Organic Farming Mission’ has been created for reducing dependence on chemical fertilizers and encouraging use of organic, farmer friendly agriculture practices under the chairmanship of Dr AS Anand.
I find shortage of words to explain the actions my government has taken for the welfare of the farmers. Fifteen lakh formers have been distributed sowing seeds at subsidised rates. Around 13 lakh hectare area has been covered under Bhoochetana Scheme, which is useful for the increase of yield of produce in dry lands. State farmers have been deputed to study the development of agriculture sector in China. Next batch of farmers is due to visit Israel too. A special assistance has been given to about 20 lakh farmers who are dependent on dry land farming. Karnataka is the first state in the country to provide farm loan at 3 per cent interest rate through co-op. as well as nationalised banks advancing Rs 4000 crore to around 14 lakh farmers. Each of the 30 districts in the state has been given Rs 15 crore as grant to organise Krishi Utsav to provide latest information and technology to the farmers.
It is said you have broken many parliamentary conventions such as deciding to present the budget even before the Union budget was presented. What do you say?
I know there are conventions and we have to respect them. But by presenting the state budget before the Union budget I would like to make it clear to the people in general what path my government can choose. I am totally committed to the cause of my state. I don’t mind taking a few bold and un-conventional steps in this regard.
How supportive have your party colleagues been from the state?
From the day one, I assumed the charge of the office of the Chief Minister, my party colleagues are with me. They have been guiding and directing me so as to serve the people of my state in a better way. I have always tried my level best to seek the support of my colleagues.
Do you think the speculations that the Reddy brothers and Ananth Kumar are systematically troubling you?
It is all the creation of the media and certain vested interests. All my cabinet colleagues are solidly with me. If at all some of them have any kind of grievances and difficulties, they are welcome to discuss with me any time.
Mr Ananth Kumar has been my best friend and colleague for decades. It is he who has been extending complete support to my every attempt to build the party in the state. I don’t hesitate in acknowledging the contribution of my dear friend in bringing BJP to power in the state.
What about the understanding and support the BJP high command in Delhi has shown to you?
I put this on record but for the guidance and complete trust of the BJP high command I could not have done whatever I have done in the state to improve the party’s strength. I am being blessed by the senior leaders in the high command.
Can you ever imagine a political life on a non-BJP platform, if you think that the BJP has been unkind to you?
Even in my dream, I cannot think of getting myself unkind treatment from my party. I don’t have time and interest to think of any hypothetical situation.
What do you have to say about the charges of nepotism and corruption against you?
From the day I have come to power, I have kept all my relatives away from the posts of position. Each and every allegation is motivated. Opposition is convinced that it cannot come to power in a decent way. I categorically deny all the corruption allegations.
Do you think the campaign of the Deve Gowda family against you extends beyond political to personal level?
Why should I answer this question? Already the people of the state are completely convinced that the campaign has been taken on a personal level. People of the state will give a befitting reply to this unjustifiable style of campaign.
Can you really prove the charges against Gowdas and Congress leaders?
My government has already initiated certain measures against the Devegowda family and Congress leaders. The investigations will speak on the charges.
Is it true that you have been publicly humiliating the constitutional office of the Governor of late?
It is totally a wrong assumption. I have high regards to His Excellency the Governor. He is head of my state. I may be having political and administrative differences; I have been nurtured in the most respectable atmosphere. I have developed my political behaviour in the dignified surrounding.
Are you a difficult man to work with?
I never think so. There are many people working with me for a number of years. I have my own style of functioning. If convinced, I have always been prepared to correct myself.
Do you really believe in superstition such as black magic?
It is not a question of having belief or not. But I wanted to draw the attention of the people towards the level the Opposition has stooped.
Finally, for what actions of yours should the people of Karnataka remember you in posterity?
I am a humble political activist. I leave this to the judgment of the people of my state.
Considering the fact that Congress or JD(S) and its earlier Janata formulations rode to power because of the combination of Lingayats and Vokkaligas with minorities, Dalits and other backward classes tilting the balance, BJP seems to be comfortably placed as long as it enjoys the backing of Lingayats because of Yeddyurappa’s leadership. Any support that BJP can garner from Dalits and bakward classes should provide the icing on the cake. With Vokkaligas rooting for JD(S), the Congress party seems to be without the backing of either of the major communities and unsure of the loyalty of its traditional vote-banks. The animosity between Congress and JD(S) should prove to be a bonus for BJP.
As far as BJP is concerned, there seems to be no alternative to Yeddyurappa because the other contenders like national general secretary Ananth Kumar, a Brahmin, or Lingayat community’s Jagadish Shettar, or even Kuruba community’s Eshwarappa can never match Yeddyurappa’s organisational capabilities, grit and stamina or penchant for hard work. Even if the Governor gives his consent for prosecution of Yeddyurappa, thereby making his continuation untenable, and the state is forced to witness a mid-term election, there is no guarantee that Congress and JD(S) will be able to fight the elections together or form the next government.
And, Yeddyurappa can certainly be counted to bounce back to power with a comfortable and resounding mandate if and when the next assembly elections are held. Thus, Yeddyurappa might yet have the last laugh due to the no alternative (TINA) factor in his favour.
By Deepak Kumar Rath