“Ananth Kumar Is Proverbial Snake In Grass”- B S Yeddyurappa
You can either hate him or love him but you cannot ignore him. That is the unique position occupied by former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa who has become the cynosure of all eyes. The BJP dreads him; the Congress looks at him with cautious optimism; the JD (S) views him with askance not unmixed with fear. But only Yeddyurappa knows what he is and what he is going to do. Having mastered the art of ‘playing cards very close to his chest’ this Lingayat-strongman has kept every political party on tenterhooks.
At the age of 70, Yeddyurappa sleeps for only four hours; tours the state as if he is having wheels instead of legs; evolves strategy to counter his opponents; these qualities make his admirers look at him with awe and respect; his bitter critics too admire him, but grudgingly. His energy and drive are something that makes politicians of his age jealous; and youngsters feel ashamed.
During his 45-minute conversation—sometimes sitting on the sofa and sometimes walking—Yeddyurappa looked like he went back in time, trying to recall events and incidents; sometimes he was furious; next moment he was calm; sometimes he controlled his tears rolling down his eyes; and next moment he was picture of poise and serene. Despite this ebb and tide in his emotions, Yeddyurappa did not mince words when he attacked his bête-noire, Ananth Kumar, the BJP national general secretary. Excerpts of B S Yeddyurappa’s conversation with Uday India special correspondent S A Hemantha Kumar.
People are not still clear as to why you quit BJP and formed a regional party of your own, despite knowing that Karnataka has not favoured regional parties in the past.
I have a dream of “Kalyana Karnataka”, a prosperous state. I want to realise the dream through a party of my own. The need for a regional party is being felt now more than ever before. The two major national parties have failed to get justice to the state. Look at the TDP in Andhra Pradesh, AIADMK & DMK in Tamil Nadu, SP in Uttar Pradesh, Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. They have been able to lobby with the Centre for the benefit of their respective states. National parties cannot do such lobbying because of its own internal inadequacies and obligations. Even while giving good governance too, there should be no pulls and pressures from any quarters. A regional party of my own with my dedication and commitment will enable me to function without any fear or favour; without any pulls or pressures; without any obligations and compulsions. With a sizeable number of MPs, I can lobby hard with the Centre for benefits. It is because of these reasons I would like to have a party of my own.
But you are seething with anger and resentment against BJP with which you have been associated for over four decades.
You all know how I was insulted and humiliated by my own colleagues in the party. The allegations of corruption are all politically motivated. Everyone knew how former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda and his two sons worked 24X7 to defame me. The speed with which petitions were filed one after another in quick succession in various forums clearly demonstrates that Gowda was determined to finish me off politically. Instead of coming to my rescue and defend me, my own party leaders started demanding my resignation. It pained me because my own people joined hands with my political opponents. It was a treachery. On the contrary, look at the Congress high command. Ministers, including Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, were first defended openly. Later, they were relocated. Look at the charges that were levelled against Salman Khurshid. Everyone thought he will be dropped, but he was given the powerful portfolio of the Ministry External Affairs. But in my case, even before the courts took cognisance of the matter, my own party colleagues asked me to go. Is this the way to treat a leader who has strived for the party for the last four decades? Honest enemies are far better than dishonest friends. More than the Opposition parties, Congress and JD (S), my own state president K S Eshwarappa and the then Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda spoke against me in public. They very badly let me down.
What is your grouse against Ananth Kumar?
He is the proverbial snake in the grass. He has been conspiring against me right from day one. A man full of conspiracy and no courage to fight the battle face to face, Ananth Kumar has successfully spoilt and poisoned the minds of L K Advani as well as that of the BJP central leadership. He has the knack of telling half-truths; he has a way with words which he can bend it the way he want. I did not have any opportunity to explain my point of view and expose the conspiracy of Ananth Kumar. The leadership was always prejudiced against me. He is also an expert at creating a ‘fait-accompli’ situation. His ambition is to become chief minister. There is nothing wrong but I used to tell him that he should get himself projected as chief ministerial candidate and then go to the polls under his leadership. If the people vote BJP to power, then he can become. But no. He wanted to get himself imposed from the top, something what Ramakrishna Hegde did in 1983. I was against it. Even now, Ananth Kumar is nursing this ambition of getting imposed himself from the top for the post of chief minister. There is an element of truth in what is being discussed in hushed tones within the BJP; that Jagadish Shettar is pre-poll CM and Ananth Kumar is post-poll CM. The idea of having Prahlad Joshi as state president is to take the complete control of the party, which he could not when I was there. He is having good equations and relation with Gowda. His calculation is that the numbers would be sufficient for BJP and JD (S) to form a coalition government and in that process become chief minister. What shocks me is that inspite of the entire top brass of the BJP central leadership knowing that it is all Ananth Kumar’s machinations, nobody is able to discipline him and show him the place he deserves. I can only draw the analogy of the mythological Mahabharat where all veterans—Bhishma, Dronacharya, Kripacharya, etc, etc, knew that Shakuni was behind all the happenings and yet nobody did anything to stop the disaster which was waiting to happen. Advani had once described V P Singh as having the characteristic features of an old-time princeling; “All courtesy; All conspiracy”. That description fits Ananth Kumar very aptly.
So this negative element forced you to quit BJP?
I wanted to come out of the suffocating, humiliating atmosphere and realise my dream of Kalyana Karnataka. Hence, I have started a political party of my own. Negative and positive elements are relative in terms.
Regional parties have not succeeded in the past. Stalwarts like Kengal Hanumanthaiah, D Devarja Urs, R Gundu Rao and S Bangarappa have failed miserably. Are you superior to them?
No. I do not claim to be superior to these stalwarts whom you have named. I am too ordinary person, hailing from a humble peasant’s family. But there are a lot of differences in the situation that existed in the past and the present one. In the past, the people still had some hope and faith in the national parties. But during the last two decades, the acceptance level of the national parties have been eroding. That space needs to be filled up by a progressive, forward-looking, principally-robust regional party that can take care of the needs of regional aspirations as well as play a vital role in national political scene without compromising on the needs of the state. I can say the time was yet ripe then, but now the time is ripe for a regional party to emerge. With these broad objectives, I am going ahead with forming a political party of my own—regional in content and nationalist in outlook.
But Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat has done wonders, despite being a part of a national party. Why could not you achieve it?
Narendra Modi has been able to insulate himself, his government from the pulls and pressures from the BJP high command. He has a free hand to function; nobody from the high command dares to poke their little nose into the affairs of the party or the government in Gujarat. That is why he is having free hand and is able to take decisions on his own, without having to be afraid of somebody interfering from the top. This is what I mean when I say that high command culture is a curse and a bane for the development of the state. Narendrabhai is an exception. Nobody in the BJP central leadership dares to set up and pit people against him. But in my case, very powerful people at the top blessed and guided Ananth Kumar when he was constantly pricking me.
It looks like more than you winning the polls, your objective is to help Congress win so that in BJP’s defeat you can have a vicarious pleasure?
It is not true. The BJP was destined to lose the Urban Local Body elections. It is not correct to say that KJP is responsible for BJP’s defeat. Take for instance, the presence of KJP in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi is marginal, but in both the places, the BJP lost heavily. Udupi was never lost when the BJS had won in 1967 but this is the first time Udupi went out of BJP’s control. But KJP has not scored there. So, it is wrong to attribute BJP’s defeat and Congress win to KJP. But it is true to a great extent that the people have not been kind to BJP after my exit. They have taught a fitting lesson.
BJP leaders say that their party is clean after your exit as you were accused of indulging in corrupt practices.
What happened to the clean party in the ULB polls, everybody knows. People ought to have brought BJP to power in a much bigger way, if they were angry with me and if they were happy by my exit. That did not happen.
So, you rule out the chances of returning to BJP?
The question simply does not arise. I am breathing freely; taking decisions about myself and my party on my own, without having to bother about what the higher ups say. Good and bad, it has to be attributed to me only. I do not want to walk back to the clutches of the BJP leadership. I have come out of the vice-like grip of Ananth Kumar and is enjoying my freedom. I can only quote Rabindranath Tagore’s words: Where head is held high, let me walk with pride and confidence; and without fear. ■