BJP’s self-goal in Karnataka

Karnataka BJP veteran B S Yeddyurappa fulfilled his ambition to yet again occupy the chief ministerial ~gaddi~ last Friday after weeks of unseemly drama over the State’s Aya Rams and Gaya Rams finally ended in extinguishing the life of the always tenuous JD(S)-Congress coalition. That coalition was fragile from the moment go. The Yeddyurappa Government will be no less vulnerable. He insisted on savouring the fruits of voluntary, instigated and induced defections, leaving several in his own party squirming with embarrassment.

Topple Kumaraswamy was a project undertaken solo by the Lingayat leader and did not have the sanction of the central leadership of his own party. But the party lacked the courage to stop him from indulging in the murky game of defections which, even if successful, could only have brought disrepute to it. Which it certainly would. In fact, the way Yeddyurappa became the chief minister of Karnataka for the fourth time is a blot on the BJP. It underlines the ceaseless Congressization of the saffron party and might soon make it as unpopular with the educated classes as the Congress had become before it lost its primacy in national politics. Use of black money to suborn always fickle-minded MLAs denied positions of patronage by the JD(S)-Congress coalition was widely reported.

There were no differences over policy or programmes. The fight was over the spoils of power. Nothing loftier than that. For days, the rebels were holed up in a five-star hotel in Mumbai, far away from the grasping reach of the ruling coalition desperate to pay a better price for their return. These were soulless buccaneers who had joined politics in quest of money and power. Social service was far from their minds. But a more fundamental point is the role the Governor Vajubhai Vala played. He exposed his hand, sending SOSs to the Chief Minister and the Speaker to conduct the trust-vote on short notice. The beleaguered coalition sought to delay the inevitable, taking the matter repeatedly to the apex court. However, it was clear from the day the 15 rebels flew the coop, as it were, that Kumaraswamy had lost majority. Now that the deed is done and Yeddyurappa is sworn in, he ought to be made to prove his majority as early as possible. How he will do it is not clear given the question-mark over the status of the rebels.

The Speaker can accept their resignations and thus pave the way for the new government to prove its majority. Or he can accept the recommendation of their party whips and disqualify them under the anti-defection law. A third possibility can prove problematic for Yeddyurappa. Which is that some of them can withdraw their resignations fearing disqualification from contesting elections during the term of this Assembly and thus feel obliged to vote with the JD(S)-Congress combine against the new government. In short, whichever way the numbers game goes for Yeddyurappa, real stability will elude him. The central leadership of the BJP might have allowed an old veteran to have his last hurrah, particularly given his influence over the Lingayat voters. Yet, sooner than later it will have to groom a new and younger leader in the State.

The Modi-Shah combine has installed new and relatively young leaders in various States, Karnataka being the only exception. At 76, Yeddyurappa probably will fade away quietly at the end of his current stint as chief minister however short it might eventually turn out to be. But as we have said in this space repeatedly, the only sensible option in Karnataka to end the current instability is a fresh election. No party, including the BJP, is in a position to give a government which can last the remaining nearly four years of the current Assembly.

- S Sadanand

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