The Bharatiya Janata Party shouts from the rooftops against “vanshwad”. Yet, in appointing BY Vijayendra, first-time legislator and son of former chief minister BS Yediyurappa, as the head of the Karnataka unit it may have opened itself to the same charge. Its decision is also an admission that despite it wanting to minimise the importance of Yediyurappa, it has no leader competent enough to replace him at this juncture. The recent loss in the Karnataka assembly poll, which was held after it had sidelined the former chief minister, underscored the importance of Yediyurappa to the central leadership. The party tally was reduced from 121 to 66 seats in the assembly.
It was a public secret that a senior leader of the party who hailed from Karnataka was all along keen to cut Yediyurappa to size. He had his way when Yediyurappa was first removed as chief minister and, later, his say in the ticket-distribution for the assembly poll was deliberately minimised. In the end, Yediyurappa had the last laugh.
Now with the parliamentary elections looming large, the Modi-Shah duo managed to sideline the senior party functionary to ensure that the senior Lingayat leader is fully rehabilitated with the appointment of his son as the state party chief. With 28 Lok Sabha seats at stake, this was perhaps the best step the party leadership could have taken to strengthen its grip on the community which exceeds 21% in the State’s electorate.
Though the Congress won 135 out of the total 224 assembly seats, the party government has not been running smoothly. There is a strong public impression of an open power tussle between Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar. Besides, a section opposed to the continuance of Siddarahaiah has floated rumours about there being an agreement to share the five-year term equally between the CM and the Dy CM.
All this makes for bad optics, especially only a few months after the people returned the party to power with a handsome majority. Even otherwise, the priorities of people while voting in the parliamentary poll as against the assembly poll are different. There being no credible national-level leader to challenge PM Narendra Modi, who will be seeking a record third term in a row next April-May, the BJP was well placed to repeat its 2019 performance when it had won 26 of the total 28 seats.
Appointment of Yediyurappa’s son as the state party chief may be a step in that direction. Given that former prime minister HD Devegowda’s JD(S) has already allied with the BJP, the caste combination of Lingayats and Vokkaliggas, another dominant caste in the State numbering over 16% of the population, becomes formidable. Should the BJP-JD(S) combine work smoothly, the Congress may find the going tough in the parliamentary poll. It is notable that ahead of the Assembly poll, the BJP leadership had not only sidelined Yediyurappa, but even other senior Lingayat leaders were humiliated at the behest of the same senior party functionary hailing from the state who was enmeshed in groupism within the Karnataka BJP. With the appointment of Vijayendra as the party chief and the consequent rehabilitation of his father, Yediyurappa, the Modi-Shah duo have not only asserted themselves but succeeded in marginalising the senior party leader who held a key position in the party organisation.
Abuse of neutral places
Despite intense international pressure, Israel shows no sign of letting up in its assault on Gaza in a bid to neutralise Hamas, the terrorist outfit behind the October 7 massacre of the innocents. Yet, in locating and eliminating Hamas terrorists it has zeroed in on hospitals and schools in Gaza which it claims serve as control centres of Hamas. There is particularly much hand-wringing at the attacks on these institutions which should normally remain unaffected, that is, if these are true to their profession of healing and educational institutions. But when mosques, hospitals, schools, etc, serve as underground bases for terrorist outfits, when terrorists seek protection behind innocent civilians, do they not lose any claim to protection on humanitarian grounds due to them? Meanwhile, the one way to force Israel to stop its attack on Gaza would be to make Hamas free the 200-odd hostages in its custody. Public opinion should not be hijacked by the partial but superior numbers of the Hamas-Palestine backers. There is a need to see the ongoing conflict in the right perspective. Israel is not without a grievance of its own.