WITH FORMER BJP chief minister BS Yeddyurappa floating the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP), the political obituary of the BJP in the state is already being written. After four years of being in power in the state amid allegations of corruption, the BJP’s prospects in the 2013 election are looking bleak with its vote bank among the Lingayats drifting away to the KJP along with Yeddyurappa.
The former CM’s resignation from the BJP on 30 November over the issue of his reinstatement as the Karnataka CM has underlined the state unit’s overdependence on him as it seems to be at a loss on a possible replacement. This situation has contributed to a growing demoralisation among the party workers.
To retain its appeal among the Lingayats (17 percent of the state’s population), the party plans to project Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar (a Lingayat) as the candidate for the CM’s post in 2013. However, Shettar remains low profile and lacks Yeddyurappa’s charisma. “The party is considering a LKG (Lingayat, Kuruba and Gowda) caste combination, but it may not work without Yeddyurappa, who could have ensured 20-30 seats in north Karnataka, a Lingayat stronghold,” says a senior BJP leader.
Although the BJP’s core ideology, Hindutva, may gain it some votes in south Karnataka, it is not expected to contribute much to the party’s fortunes in other parts of the state. “If you look at recent developments in the party, you will find that even seasoned leaders are choosing to campaign on development-related issues rather than Hindutva. When all the other parties are talking about secularism, how can they alone bank on communalism?” says political analyst Shiv Sundar. “Moreover, Yeddyurappa has successfully managed to show that it was the BJP high command that pushed him to resign. This will help him garner sympathy votes for the KJP.”
In 2008, the party had banked on the Bellary Reddys’ mining wealth to influence MLAs and form the government. With former minister Gali Janardhana Reddy in jail for alleged involvement in illegal mining, and the Reddys floating their own party — the Badava Shramika Raitha (BSR) Congress — the flow of funds from that source would elude the BJP this time. Though BJP leaders and ministers in the state are alleged to have made a lot of money in the past four years, it is unlikely that they would shell out money for the party.
BUT THE going is not smooth for Yeddyurappa either. He is expected to make his mark in the Lingayat belt, but would still have to establish his base in Bengaluru and other areas since the KJP lacks organisational strength on the ground. Also, parties led by breakaway leaders have not fared well in Karnataka. Similar experiments in the past have meant political death for those who tried it. Political analysts, however, are optimistic for Yeddyurappa since he retains the Lingayat vote bank. In the case of a hung Assembly, he could well play the kingmaker with 20-30 seats. In fact, some observers even speculate that when the BJP settles the issue of leadership in its state unit by January 2013, Yeddyurappa might come back as the CM.
However, the party set to lose the most because of the KJP is the JD(S), which represents the interests of the Gowdas (15 percent of the population). Led by the father- son duo of HD Deve Gowda and HD Kumaraswamy, the JD(S) has been in coalition with the Congress and the BJP. This time, with the KJP and the BSR Congress in the fray, there is less scope for the JD(S) to play kingmaker.
“The division of votes will benefit the Congress,” says former Congress MLC Qazi Arshad Ali. “113 seats are needed to form the government. In 2008, when there was a sympathy wave for the BJP, the Congress won 79 seats. This time, the Congress will win a clear majority.”
“Even in the last election, the BJP secured 33.6 percent votes and the Congress 34.89 percent,” says former BJP leader Anna Vinaychandra. “Now, not only Yeddyurappa but most of the BJP leaders in Karnataka are seen as corrupt and the people blame the entire party for it. It is difficult to revive the party’s image.”
Imran Khan is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.