Political circles in Karnataka are abuzz with talk that former CM BS Yeddyurappa would soon be joining the BJP, the party he had quit in November last year before launching the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP). Though the speculation has been rife for several months now, sources in the bjp have confirmed that Yeddyurappa’s return to his former party is imminent.
The BJP’s debacle in the Karnataka Assembly election this May, in which the party won only 40 of the 225 seats, coming third after the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular), has made the party seriously consider bringing Yeddyurappa back into its fold ahead of the 2014 General Election. One of the factors behind the BJP’s ouster from power in the state was said to be the loss of the Lingayat vote bank after Yeddyurappa’s exit from the party. This hit the BJP badly in around 40 constituencies, especially in north Karnataka, which used to be a formidable base for the party before the formation of the KJP.
However, the KJP too could not make a significant impact in terms of seats won in the Assembly polls and had to be satisfied with only six seats. This gave credence to the longstanding belief that the people of Karnataka do not favour regional parties. It seems the elections held out a message for both Yeddyurappa and the BJP that they would be better off together rather than as rivals. Though Yeddyurappa had also been negotiating with the Congress and had reportedly met some senior leaders of the party in New Delhi, he was not much enthused by the proposal for a seat-sharing arrangement. He thought it would benefit the Congress more than the KJP. On the other hand, the bjp’s successes in the Assembly polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh has made it even more attractive for the Lingayat leader.
“Yeddyurappa and the bjp have both realised that they need each other to do well in next year’s polls,” says political analyst SA Hemanth Kumar. “The Assembly polls showed that in the absence of a strong regional leader, the wave in favour of bjp prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi cannot be converted into a surge in votes for the bjp in Karnataka.”
Sources in the BJP say that Yeddyurappa’s return could be a game-changer for the party in the 2014 polls. The ground realities have changed significantly since the days when the idea of Yeddyurappa’s return was opposed by bjp national general secretary Ananth Kumar as well as veteran leader LK Advani, whom Yeddyurappa holds responsible for his ouster as the Karnataka chief minister in July 2011. Even as bjp prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi extended an olive branch to the former chief minister, the latter too realised that a mere 10 percent vote share of the KJP in Karnataka won’t be sufficient to make a difference in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Sources say that the BJP would announce Yeddyurappa’s return to the party after a few issues are sorted out. The most important of these concern the party posts that would be offered to the former cm and other KJP leaders, especially campaign committee chairman V Dhananjay Kumar and working president Shobha Karandlaje. Yeddyurappa has been demanding a greater say in decision-making in the BJP, including ticket distribution.
“Yeddyurappa wants to be appointed the BJP’s campaign committee chairman in Karnataka and a ministerial berth at the Centre if the party comes to power,” says a KJP leader on condition of anonymity.
However, BJP state spokesperson MH Sridhar refused to talk about the conditions laid down by Yeddyurappa and whether any of his demands would be met to pave the way for his return. “Yeddyurappa’s return will announced only after 13 January,” he told Tehelka.
Not everyone among Yeddyurappa’s close associates in the KJP, however, favour a merger of their party with the BJP. Instead, they want the KJP to support the bjp from the outside. They feel that would give them greater leverage in case of a hung verdict in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Political analysts point out that Yeddyurappa’s biggest challenge will come after he returns to his former party. He will get the credit if the BJP manages to do well in Karnataka in the 2014 polls, but if that doesn’t happen, he will be staring at an uncertain future sans the KJP.