An angry BS Yeddyurappa threatens to break away from the BJP, yet again. But, there’s more to his words this time, says Imran Khan
WITH BS Yeddyurappa announcing once again to break away from the BJP and form his own party, questions are being raised on the likelihood of him living up to his threat this time? The Lingayat strongman has been simmering from the time he was forced out as chief minister by the party in July after being indicted in a multi-crore mining scam by the Lokayukta.
Yeddyurappa has also made no bones of his displeasure with the BJP for not making him the state party president, and for shunting out legislators loyal to him from the current government. But this time, BJP insiders say, he is serious about leaving the party he led for 40 years in the state.
Yeddyurappa was particularly miffed in March this year, when, even after the Karnataka High Court quashed the FIR in the mining case, the party high command refused to make him either the CM or the state party president. Angry at being rebuffed by national party president Nitin Gadkari and senior leader Arun Jaitley for demanding a change of guard in Karnataka, Yeddyurappa had then refused to attend the BJP core committee meeting held in the same month. He could only be pacified after the high command removed the then CM Sadananda Gowda and installed the candidate of his choice, Jagadish Shettar.
In October, after publicly announcing his intention to float a new party, Yeddyurappa refused to meet Jaitley, who was in Bengaluru to negotiate with him. Earlier, to shocked BJP supporters, he criticised Gadkari and Jaitley publicly and created a stir by praising the Congress and Sonia Gandhi.
“He feels there is no future for him in the state BJP and he has more or less decided to go ahead with the new party,” says Lehar Singh, state party treasurer and a confidant of Yeddyurappa. Says another senior party leader of the state unit on condition of anonymity: “He (Yeddyurappa) may announce the new party by November or December. He has already started selecting candidates for the elections due by May next year. A list of candidates for 60 constituencies has already been drawn up.” The timing will have a lot to do with the outcome of the December Assembly polls in Gujarat.
However, the Karnataka strongman is not dependent on the 60-odd MLAs who had helped him in installing Shettar as chief minister. “His understanding is that they might possibly remain with the BJP,” says the senior leader, who, however, refused to comment on how Yeddyurappa intends to fund his new political party. Sources also say that irrespective of whether his party manages to get enough seats or not, Yeddyurappa’s desire is to eliminate the state BJP. His ire is particularly directed against senior BJP leader LK Advani, deputy CM and state party president KS Eshwarappa and party General Secretary Ananth Kumar, as he believes that they blocked his efforts for a comeback.
Political commentators who are predicting a fractured mandate in the coming elections, however, say that if Yeddyurappa forms his own party, he will not be able to sweep the polls. At best, he will win enough seats to play the kingmaker. The Lingayat leader is basing his calculations on no party being able to muster enough seats to form a government. In that case, his party, like the opposition Janata Dal (Secular) would be needed to form a coalition government. But that will depend on how much popular support he can garner sans the BJP.
If other parties are not able to muster enough seats in the polls, Yeddyurappa’s party could emerge the kingmaker
Also, another situation that Yeddyurappa might be loathe to ignore is that in the event of a hung Assembly — likely as it is to be with four parties throwing their hat in the ring — the Congress will enjoy the strongest position. But, how desperate is Yeddyurappa to break the BJP? Is he desperate enough to play second fiddle to long-time rivals, the Congress? Going by the “secret” meetings he has had with Congress leaders and even leaders from the NCP, this is one possibility that he has not discounted. Yeddyurappa met CM Ibrahim of the Congress as recently as 30 September.
THE POLITICAL history of Karnataka shows that parties led by breakaway leaders have not fared well. Similar experiments in the past have meant political death for those who tried it. The most memorable instance is that of Congress leader S Bangarappa, who quit the Congress to form his own party, but ended up in political wilderness.
However, this may not necessarily happen with Yeddyurappa. “The conditions are different now,” says political analyst Shiv Sunder. “With both the BJP and the Congress faring badly, if Yeddyurappa is able to mobilise support among Lingayat voters, he can win anywhere between 30-40 seats. In such a scenario, he can call the shots as neither the Congress nor the JD(S) can do without his support.”
While Yeddyurappa’s newfound admiration for the Congress has fuelled speculation of a possible alignment, the party has officially disassociated itself from the BJP leader. It will be difficult for them to face the electorate if they openly align with Yeddyurappa, against whose corruption they have railed throughout his tenure. Postpolls, however, is a different kettle of fish altogether.
Imran Khan is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.