Friday, March 31st, 2023 16:12:11

Saffron party in Karnataka is incorrigible : LEMMING COMPLEX GRIPS STATE BJP LEADERS

By Special Correspondent from Bengaluru
Updated: June 22, 2021 1:40 pm

Arun Singh’s three-day visit to Bengaluru, in his attempts to douse the fire, however, has proved to be “an extravagant exercise in utter futility”

Karnataka BJP has refused to learn any lesson from history. And the saffron party looks determined to commit the same mistake it committed exactly a decade ago. Its consistency to do hara-kiri for itself is simply amazing!

BJP’s national general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP Arun Singh –prabhari of Karnataka – was in Bengaluru city on a fire-fighting mission. A few MLAs have been demanding that B. S. Yediyurappa be replaced. A few other MLAs are cut up with the fact that they have not been made ministers. As is its culture in Karnataka unit, the MLAs and leaders started throwing muck at each other in public. In this process, the party’s image, credibility and reputation were at stake.

Arun Singh’s visit can be said, in simple words, “an extravagant exercise in utter futility”. Except reiterating that there is no proposal before the party to change the chief minister, there was no categorical assurance to settle the dispute. In the core committee meeting, it was Yediyurappa who demanded action against party legislators–Basavanagouda Patil Yatnal and H. Vishwanath–who have been lambasting BSY day in and day out.

Now the flash back. In 2011, BJP’s tallest mass leader B. S. Yediyurappa, who was at that time Chief Minister doing a decent job, was made to resign on a graft charge. Yediyurappa’s exit from the CM’s post and subsequently from the party was essentially the resultant of the cold war that was going on between the Lingayat strongman and the late Ananth Kumar, who could not hide his ambition to become the Chief Minister of Karnataka. In the subsequent elections held in 2013, BJP’s number came down to 40. While BSY’s own outfit won six seats, he, however, took away 10 per cent of votes. The internal squabble of the saffron party ensured the return of Congress with Siddaramaiah as Chief Minister.

Cut to 2021. A decade later, the BJP continues to remain in the same rut – demand to remove an acknowledged mass leader from the post without having a clear viable alternative. Only those who are gripped with “lemming complex” can do such a fool-hardy thing.

Lemming complex has been explained as tendency to commit mass suicide, a phenomenon that is found among vole-like rodents in the coasts of Scandinavian countries. Thousands of these rodents, at some point in time, jump into sea and commit suicide en masse. This is called lemming complex. Going by the internal squabbles and street-fight happening in Karnataka BJP, it is for sure that the state leaders of the saffron party are gripped by lemming complex.

Dissidence in a national party is something that cannot be avoided at all, unless the state leader is strong and he is self-made. It is almost a fact that dissidents in a national party will invariably have somebody at the top to guide them – be it the Congress or the BJP. The Congress dispensation too witnessed the worst kind of dissidence, obviously, guided and abetted by somebody in Delhi. In the BJP too in 2011, it was an open secret that BSY faced worst-form of dissidence obviously guided and aided by somebody who was powerful in nation’s capital. In 2021, it is an open secret in Karnataka BJP that the present crisis too is aided, guided and abetted by somebody in Delhi. This malaise cannot be found in a regional party which are mostly family-based. At worst, the differences in the family may affect that regional party, as is now being witnessed in LJP in Bihar.

The dissidents have three complaints against Yediyurappa – that he is old (he is 79) and he ought to go as per the party’s unwritten convention that nobody above 75 should hold the position of CM; that he is presiding over a corrupt regime and thirdly, his son B. Y. Vijayendra’s interference in day-to-day governance is too much.

Anti-BSY elements in BJP were aware of his age in 2018 when he was projected as chief ministerial candidate – he was 74 at that time. Does it mean that these elements wanted to use BSY to come to power and throw him later? The allegations of corruption and his son’s interference are not insurmountable. So, to put it in simple words, the street-fight is essentially a struggle to become Chief Minister by too many people.

All said and done, Yediyurappa today is the unquestionable mass leader and numero uno of the politically-sensitive and numerically-strong Lingayath community. As of today there is no alternative, either in the BJP or in state politics. This has to be accepted by BSY’s detractors. This means that the saffron party has failed to groom/nurse another strong mass leader from Lingayath community.

There may be an element of truth in the charge that Yediyurappa managed not to allow anybody from his community to grow to his stature. But the cadre-based mass party ought to have taken steps that “an individual does not become indispensable”. To that extent Karnataka BJP has failed.

Now flash back again. In November 1989 assembly elections, the Congress registered a massive victory by winning 186 seats. The entire Lingayath community – from Bidar to Kodagu – voted for Congress. The political logic and arithmetic were simple. The Congress had cleverly projected the late Veerendra Patil as its Chief Minister candidate. The Lingayaths were cut up with Janata Dal. Ramakrishna Hegde and H. D. Deve Gowda had fought against each other. The Lingayaths were angry that the S. R. Bommai-led government had been dismissed as it had lost majority. Bommai was a Lingayath leader from Hubli-Dharwad.

In fact, the Congress government under Veerendra Patil did extremely well. However, in November 1990, the then Congress President the late Rajiv Gandhi removed Veerendra Patil from CM’s post. A Lingayath chief minister was removed and a backward classes leader – S. Bangarappa – was made Chief Minister. The Lingayath community was angry and revolted against Congress. The Congress lost the 1994 assembly elections very badly. It got 36 seats.

A similar blunder was committed by the BJP in 2011 when B. S. Yediyurappa was removed. The BJP’s number in 2013 elections came down to 40. The Congress returned to power. Now after a decade, the BJP, which, obviously, has not learnt any lesson from history, is determined to repeat the same blunder in 2021.

Two developments have to be keenly watched, if it happens in the next coming months.

First, will the BJP remove Yediyurappa much against his wishes or will the saffron party pacify and mollify the Lingayath strongman and persuade him to quit the post allowing him to choose his successor? Second, will the Congress leadership strategically announce M.B. Patil, a leader from the Panchamshali-Lingayath community from Bijapur, as its chief ministerial candidate, just like it did in 1989 to garner Lingayath votes.

The future of Karnataka politics is going to be determined by these two developments which are crucial to both the BJP and the Congress.

The BJP would do well if it allows BSY to choose his successor in its own interest. The tallest Lingayath leader S. Nijalingappa chose his two successors – Veerendra Patil and Ramakrishna Hegde. Though Hegde was a Brahmin, the Lingayath –who are tempermentally anti-Brahmin – accepted Hegde as their leader just because he was blessed by S. Nijalingappa. Similarly, today Yediyurappa is the tallest leader of the Lingayath community. It is natural and obvious that he is asked to choose his successor.

BJP’s central leadership must realise that it can antagonise Yediyurappa at its own electoral and political peril. The Lingayath community is with the BJP not because of any ideological issues – Article 370, Ram temple or Uniform Civil Code – but simply because of Yediyurappa. The central leadership needs to reign in one or two ambitious leaders, wherever they are, whoever they are, if not, these leaders will be the “root cause for the wreckage of BJP ship in a most inaccessible place”. Wisdom says: “Don’t destroy the good in search of an ideal.” The BJP must heed to this wise saying.

By Special Correspondent from Bengaluru

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