Yeddyurappa On A Come-Back Trail?
Karnataka BJP strongman BS Yeddyurappa has just won the battle. The High Court quashed the FIR against him in connection with the Lokayukta report on illegal mining that indicted him.
And Yeddyurappa, as expected, has stepped up the clamour for his return to the Chief Ministership. A sizeable section of the Ministers and MLAs are pushing his case. But will he win the war? That’s the moot question.
It was precisely due to the Lokayukta report that Yeddyurappa was told to vacate his chair, with an assurance that he would be reinstated once the court clears him. Now that there is a clean chit, all eyes are on the party’s central leadership on the future course of action.
There are indications that it’s only a matter of time before Yeddyurappa becomes Chief Minister again. Yeddyurappa is desperate and can’t wait any longer and the party high command appears to be in no hurry to oblige him.
Speculation is rife in Karnataka as to who will present the budget on March 21. While Yeddyurappa wants to have his way, the central BJP may allow his successor DV Sadananda Gowda to “do the honours” and then pave the way for the return of Yeddyurappa.
One school of thought is that Sadananda Gowda may be made the State unit President. After all, he was holding that post when BJP came to power. The incumbent state president KS Eshwarappa may return to the Cabinet with a “weighty” portfolio.
From BJP’s point of view, it’s clear that facing the next elections, due in mid-2013, under Sadananda Gowda is not an option. Yeddyurappa is no doubt a mass leader and vote-catcher. Winning a large number of Lok Sabha seats in 2014 is also a top priority for the party.
It seems luck is smiling on Yeddyurappa again. It’s only a few days ago that Yeddyurappa was told in no uncertain terms by the high command that change in the leadership of Sadananda Gowda was not possible. A sulking Yeddyurappa had no option but to bide his time.
Yeddyurappa resigned on July 31 last year after the party. Taking the moral high ground, the BJP which was firing from all cylinders against the Congress-led scam-tainted UPA at the time, wanted to see Yeddyurappa’s back so that its campaign does not suffer.
Whenever BJP raised a hue and cry over scams hitting the national headlines, the Congress used to point its finger at Yeddyurappa, asking BJP as to what it did against Yeddyurappa. Once Yeddyurappa was eased out, the BJP thought the fight against the UPA would be without a drag.
Yeddyurappa has been making vigorous behind-the-scenes efforts to stage a come-back, making veiled threats to the party leadership through some followers that he is toying with idea of either joining the NCP or JDU or even floating a regional party.
But it was soon clear that they are all pressure tactics to make the party leadership act on his demand. Observers point out that Yeddyurappa is unlikely to leave the party, that he helped build playing a key role over three decades.
History will say that those who had left BJP have hardly made it good. Either they have vanished into political oblivion or walked back into the party realising their folly. Yeddyurappa clearly knows this.
Yeddyurappa has been playing the caste card very well, seeking to consolidate the dominant Lingayat community behind the party. He repeatedly sends out a message that any action against him will only boomerang on the party, which is looking to secure a good number of seats in the next Parliamentary elections.
Sadananda Gowda was hand-picked by him to be his successor by Yeddyurappa after he had to quit. Gowda defeated Yeddyurappa’s arch-rival and fellow Lingayat Jagadish Shettar in a bitter legislature party meeting in early August last year bringing groupism and factionalism in the ruling party into full public glare.
In this latest round by Yeddyurappa seeking to exert pressure on the party to make him Chief Minister, he had roped Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister Shettar in to his side, along with Home and Transport Minister R Ashoka, who was in rival faction, then spearheaded by senior BJP leader HN Ananth Kumar.
In recent weeks, Sadananda Gowda sought to assert himself and come out of the shadow of Yeddyurappa, much to the chagrin of the latter. The Yeddyurappa camp also alleged that Sadananda Gowda, who is from Vokkaliga community is getting closer to the opposition JDS, which counts Vokkaligas as its support base.
In fact, when Sadananda Gowda contested the Legislative Council bypoll, JDS abstained from voting paving the way for his easy victory. Several Yeddyurappa loyalists complained about Sadanada Gowda’s style of functioning.
Sadananda Gowda, who was the State unit President when the party was swept to power in 2008, has the backing of the central leadership, which desperately wants the party’s image to improve in Karnataka.
After the party President Nitin Gadkari flew into Bangalore in early March, ostensibly to attend the “Chintan-Mantan Baitak” for party legislators and leaders, and made clear to Yeddyurappa that he would have to wait, the former Chief Minister was seething with anger.
Gadkari told him that he has to first come clean on the corruption charges that he faced in courts. To mollify him, Gadkari said the party has reservations about the Lokayukta report which, he said, had done injustice to him.
Terming Yeddyurappa’s as the popular face of the party in Karnataka, Gadkari has promised to “honour him” (make him Chief Minister) once he clears the court cases. But Yeddyurappa sought to remind him of the promise made by the leadership to give him the post after six months, but it has not cut much ice.
Yeddyurappa’s supporters want him to lead the party in the next Assembly elections and don’t see Sadananda Gowda as a vote-catcher for them.
A born fighter, Yeddyurappa is not known to give up easily and expected to continue his brinkmanship in the coming days. He knows for sure that in politics, that’s the only way of survival.
The BJP’s image has clearly dented following allegations of corruption. Recently, three Ministers had to quit over port-gate scandal. But as an observer said, electoral politics is a different ball game and the BJP can still bounce back.
It’s no secret that the Congress is a divided house and JDS is confined to only the Vokkaliga belt. BJP can still salvage pride and put up a good show if it is able to bring its house to order. The ruling party’s performance on the development front has been overshadowed by bickerings among various factions.
Biggest hurdle for Yeddyurappa’s return to the Chief Minister’s “gaddi” is antagonism toward him by BJP stalwart LK Advani. Yeddyurappa has fallen out with Advani, who is said to be strongly against the former getting back the plum post.
The party has meanwhile talked about collective leadership for the next polls, but Yeddyurappa has more than once made it clear it has to be under him. He is on record that he does not believe in collective leadership. We haven’t heard the last of Yeddyurappa. You can like or dislike Yeddyurappa but you certainly can’t ignore him.
By Rajesh Kamath from Bengaluru