Gripped by Lemming Complex Karnataka BJP Paid Its Price But it refuses to learn any lesson from defeat
BJP leader LK Advani always used to caution his party’s Karnataka leadership that the good performance of the government would get eclipsed by their shoddy behaviour and conduct which could prove costly in the elections. He always used to draw analogy of the 1977 Janata Party government headed by Morarji Desai.
Let me quote him, “…while the performance of the Janata government was remarkable, the behaviour of the leaders at the party was abominable. Quarrelling, infighting, shoddy conduct in public, etc, took the toll of the party and government’s image. People were fed up and threw out the Janata Party and the government lock, stock and barrel in the 1980 polls. I do not blame the electorate for this…”
Going by the results of the urban local bodies elections where the BJP ‘s number came down from 1280 to 905 in spite of being in power the Karnataka unit has proved Advani right to the hilt and core.
Karnataka BJP leaders did exactly what Advani did not wanted them to do quarrelling in public, infighting, dissidence most often fuelled, aided and abetted by somebody at the top, unethical conduct of a few ministers and MLAs, failure of the organisation to reign in the errant MLAs, arrogance of the ministers, neglect of the genuine party workers —the cumulative impact of all these negative trends reflected in the results of the elections to 208 urban local bodies held in March.
It is not only the defeat but the dimension of the defeat that is to be noted. The defeat is in all the urban centres, i.e, town municipalities, town panchayats and city corporations of two-tier cities, where the BJP is supposed to be having strong base, irrespective of whether it is in power or not.
For instance, the BJP lost Mangalore City Corporation, the coastal town where the organisation is supposed to be stronger than all other places. Worse, the BJP lost Udupi town municipality, the temple-town in the coastal Karnataka. The Bharatiya Jana Sangh had won the Udupi town municipality for the first time in 1967 under the leadership of Dr VS Acharya. No matter what were the results in other parts of the state, the Jana Sangh and BJP had never lost this Udupi town municipality. Acharya had won the President’s Best Municipality award way back in 1972 for good governance. However, for the first time, BJP lost Udupi municipal elections. It is a tragic irony that within one year of the death of Dr VS Acharya in February 2012, Udupi town municipality, which he had nursed and nurtured as his own child, went away from the BJP.
The contribution of former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa in decimating the BJP is no less. He ensured that his newly-formed outfit, Karnataka Janata Paksha eats into major chunk of BJP’s votes thus enabling the Congress to win, in majority of the places. He could not conceal the glee over his face, when his party won 300-odd seats and decimated BJP which he had quit in November last year.
The elections have also proved that Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar is not a vote-getter and crowd-puller, which simply means, that he is no mass leader. This can be made out by the fact that the BJP fell short of majority in Hubli-Dharwad municipal corporation, the hometown of Shettar.
“When the elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers,” is an old time-tested saying. The constant and continues fight, more often shadow-boxing between Yeddyurappa and Ananth Kumar, took the toll of workers’ morale. The question of their survival became important as instead of loyalty to the party, they preferred to choose the loyalty to the individuals. In this fight of two elephants Yeddyurappa and Ananth Kumar the grass (grassroots workers) suffered in terms of defeat in the urban local bodies elections.
When the people voted BJP to power in 2008, they did not had any high hopes about its efficacy and ability for governance, for most of them were first-time ministers and are not familiar with the levers of government, negative forces that would be at work, hindrances, pitfalls, etc. The people did not expect any miracles in terms of performance. But the people were confident that public conduct and behaviour of the activists of the “party with a difference” will be dignified, decent so as to earn and sustain the confidence and goodwill of the common man. But it is exactly here, where it hurts most—abominable conduct and nauseating behaviour—the Karnataka BJP failed to live up to the expectations of the people.
Lemming Complex is a phrase that is used to describe a phenomenon of committing suicide en masse. This phenomenon is found largely among the vole-like rodents that inhabit the coasts of Scandinavian countries.
That the Karnataka BJP leadership is gripped by this Lemming Complex goes without saying and is evident in the results of the urban local bodies elections. But it looks like that the leaders are not in a mood to learn lesson and set right the organisation, going by the differences that have cropped up between top leaders Ananth Kumar, KS Eshwarappa (Deputy Chief Minister) and DV Sadananda Gowda (former chief minister).
Both were unhappy by the way Ananth Kumar managed to get his own man Prahlad Joshi as state unit president. Both Joshi and Ananth Kumar are Brahmins and hail from Hubli. Joshi is a business partner of Nanda Kumar, younger brother of Ananth Kumar, who is into chemical business. Ananth Kumar’s subjective agenda in having his own man as president, according to insiders, is to exercise total and complete control over the party, including giving tickets to his loyalists in the forthcoming Assembly elections.
“IT IS BETTER TO WORK WITH HONEST ENEMIES THAN BE WITH DISHONEST FRIENDS”
Shobha Karandlaje, the lone woman minister in BJP government, was not only minister of power but also a powerful one, with her reach and clout stretching to other departments as well. This invoked awe as well as jealousy among her colleagues.
She quit the ministry as well as the BJP, the party with which she had been associated for almost a quarter century. “Parting is always painful but there are political compulsions,” she said, when asked how she felt to part ways with the Sangh Parivar.
Hailing from a remote village in Puttur taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, this post-graduate lady got in touch with the Rashtriya Sevika Sangh, the women’s wing of the RSS. She became its full-time worker after serving as lecturer for a few years in Mangalore. Later she joined the ABVP, the student’s wing of the RSS before joining the BJP in 1989.
“I need to strengthen the hands of BS Yeddyurappa who has been fighting for self-respect of the state as well as that of the activists,” she said in an exclusive chat with Uday India. She asserted that there was no option for Yeddyurappa other than to leave BJP and start his own regional outfit.
“A coward dies a number of times but a courageous man dies only once. In BJP, Yeddyurappa was dying every day due to the conspiracies and machinations of a few individuals who had unstinted support from powerful people at the top. Yeddyurappa thought it is better to fight against an honest enemy than be with dishonest friends,” Shobha Karandlaje said.
According to her, BJP, at least in Karnataka, has ceased to be an effective tool to bring about a social transformation as there are too many vested interests within the party. “Too many hurdles from the top had hindered the pace of developmental activities, thus affecting governance. It had cast a shadow on Yeddyurappa’s efficacy. The so-called corruption charges first by JD (S) and later by Congress were repeated by BJP leaders, though it was all politically-motivated. As I said, it would have been better to work with honest enemies than be with dishonest friends,” Shobha Karandlaje said. Here are the excerpts of her interview with SA Hemantha Kumar.
What was the compulsion that Yeddyurappa had to quit BJP?
He has said it a number of times. It was all conspiracy to defame him, hatched by powerful people who had no courage but only cowardice in them. The state government sent a report to Central Empowered Committee on illegal mining that pertained only to Yeddyurappa, as if illegal mining happened only during Yeddyurappa’s tenure. Why this selective approach? Yeddyurappa’s name was inserted in the Lok Ayukta report of Justice Santosh Hegde and he quit. But when the high court quashed the report, is it not fair to reinstate him back in office? How did the BJP central leadership handle the crisis of dissidence carried out by Reddy brothers and fuelled by somebody who is powerful at the top? All these made Yeddyurappa to decide to quit and chart his own course. There is nothing wrong in this.
But what made you to quit BJP and follow Yeddyurappa?
It was obvious and natural. Yeddyurappa felt that his desire of making Karnataka a model state will not be possible in BJP as there were not only dishonest friends who back-stabbed him but also due to high command culture. There were too many pulls and pressures, from the top, when I was in the government. Too many leaders threw their weight around the government and the ministers for one thing or the other. Taking decisions were delayed due to constant interference. A man like Yeddyurappa, known for instant and quick decisions and immediate action, could not tolerate this. Moreover, he could not stay in an atmosphere full of suspicion and back-stabbing. So, when he quit BJP, I had to follow suit. I want to strengthen his hands and stand by him, as he has a noble dream of seeing Kalyana Karnataka, which is nothing but a Karnataka with all-round development.
You hail from Sangh Parivar and you have spent almost three-fourth of your life in RSS-atmosphere. How did you feel when you quit?
I felt sorry, I felt pained. Parting is always painful, no matter when you leave a place of dwelling or when you leave a city. I know for sure that there are people who cry and weep when they change their house because the attachment would be so intense. But there are compulsions and obligations which we have to observe and follow. When the organisation or the party is not becoming an effective tool for bringing out a social transformation, then it is imperative to change the tool.
But what about the corruption charges against Yeddyurappa?
Going by the frenzy and pace with which cases were filed one after another in various courts, sometimes almost simultaneously, it was an open secret that all these were politically-motivated. It was a deep-rooted conspiracy hatched by our political opponents but what pained me and Yeddyurappa was that our own people were hand in glove with our enemies. It was the unkindest cut of all, a betrayal, a stab in the back. Yeddyurappa is capable of looking after his “enemies”, but only god has to save him from his “friends”.
Can you name those dishonest friends in BJP?
Yeddyurappa is the better person to expose them. I would not like to snatch his prerogative. Moreover, everybody knows them. It is an open secret, or rather it is no more secret. But still, I would not like to name them and I will leave that privilege to Yeddyurappa.
Is there any chance of you all returning to BJP?
(Laughs). We have come a long way; Yeddyurappa has said there is no question of him rejoining BJP. There is no question of looking back, if at all I look back, it is only to learn appropriate lessons from history because if one does not learn a lesson from history, one is bound to repeat it. Yes, I will look back not to return to BJP but to draw appropriate lessons from our experiences.
Insiders confide that Ananth Kumar with Advani’s blessings would get himself imposed as chief ministerial candidate in the event of the May 2013 polls throwing a hung assembly with BJP as single largest party with 75 to 80 seats. BJP has dropped broad hints that it would join hands with JD (S), which according to BJP, could win about 45 seats. It is not just a coincidence that Ananth Kumar and JD (S) supremo HD Deve Gowda are great pals and enjoy a warm relationship, but both have been careful enough not to make their “more-than-what-meet-the-eye” relationship obvious and conspicuous.
JD (S) has made it clear that it will not have any kind of alliance or electoral adjustments with the BJP in the elections. It is quite understandable. In the 2004 assembly elections, JD (S) had won 58 seats and Congress had won 65 seats. The BJP had won 79 seats. A sizeable chunk of Muslims had voted Gowda’s party in that 2004 elections. But Gowda’s son HD Kumaraswamy’s decision to join hands with the BJP in 2006 made the Muslims move away from Gowda’s party. In the 2008 assembly elections, its number came down from 58 to 28, a good loss of 30 seats. So, the JD (S) is averse to have any kind of pre-poll relationship with the BJP. But having said that, it will have nothing to do with the BJP in 2013 elections, the JD (S), however, is more than willing or rather desperate to join hands with the same BJP in the post-poll scenario.
It is not without any reason or logic that the talk of the town in Karnataka BJP is that Shettar is pre-poll chief minister and Ananth Kumar is post-poll chief minister. Machinations and skullduggery of these sorts on the part of Ananth Kumar are the perennial source of discontentment, internecine quarrels, absence of camaraderie and bonhomie among the Karnataka BJP leadership, because of which the party is gripped by Lemming Complex and paid its price in the urban local bodies elections.
By SA Hemantha Kumar from Bengaluru