Note: This is a translation of Pratap Simha’s column in Kannada Prabha entitled, Menake Bandu Kuniyuvavaregu Vishwamitra Mahatapaswiyaagidda. BJPya katheyu haage aaytu! published on 11 May 2013.
Who do we need to blame amongst these: B.S. Yeddyurappa, K.S. Eshwarappa, Jagadish Shettar, Ananth Kumar, Sushma Swaraj, Lal Krishna Advani, and Nitin Gadkari? Who do we hold accountable? Was the Karnataka BJP reduced to this pathetic state thanks to just one person? Or was it the combined “efforts” of these leaders that led to the ignominious end of the first BJP Government in the South in just five years? You might have heard of the Bay of Pigs invasion. That was the brainchild of the CIA which armed the rebels against the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in order to unseat him. The invasion occurred on 17 April 1961. However, Castro suppressed this uprising in just three days. Meanwhile, back in the U.S. everybody pointed fingers at this “failure” squarely at John F Kennedy. It was during this phase that Kennedy gave us the memorable "Victory has a thousand fathers; defeat is an orphan” quote.
When the BJP formed its first Government in South India in 2008, the leader who questionably championed it to electoral victory was B.S. Yeddyurappa. However, when we observe the shocking drubbing it received on 8 May 2013, we see a thousand leaders responsible for it.
How did the BJP even reach such a humiliating state?
The BJP has stormed back to power in Gujarat thrice in a row and is all set to retain power for a third consecutive time in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. Manohar Parrikar has already been earned kudos for his governance in Goa. In Rajasthan, the BJP’s prospects to capture power are looking increasingly bright. If this is has been the case with the BJP in various states in the country, why did so much mud stick to it in Karnataka? Just as a leader earns laurels for doing good work, it becomes imperative on him/her to shoulder the responsibility when things go wrong.
Therefore, was B.S. Yeddyurappa, the man who built the BJP in Karnataka from the scratch, an avaricious leader? He was the Deputy Chief Minister in the JDS-BJP coalition Government in 2006 headed by the Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy. In those days, the Sangh Parivar sent one of its own members to the Deputy Chief Minister’s office in order to stem the rot of corruption and middlemen that were littered all over the administration. Yeddyurappa welcomed the move, a demonstration of his commitment for the welfare of the people of Karnataka. Back then, liquor used to be distributed to wine shops through private agents. In a bid to increase the revenue to the state coffers, Yeddyurappa decided to eliminate these agents and reorganize liquor distribution through the state-owned MSIL. Alarmed by this move, the lobby of these private agents approached him with a massive booty, which he refused to touch. He formed a team headed by the then Tax Commissioner Harish Gowda and launched innovative schemes for filling up the state’s treasury and embarked on a series of pro-people programmes. It was around this time that the Chief Minister Kumaraswamy announced a complete waiver of farmers’ loans. Yeddyurappa who was also the Finance Minister opposed this move. Meanwhile, the person deputed by the Sangh to Yeddyurappa’s office also launched Breakfast with the Deputy Chief Minister, an initiative aimed at promoting dialogue and enhancing relations between the Legislators, MPs, and the Party. Legislators, MPs, and party heads of various districts began visiting the Deputy CM everyday for breakfast to discuss their needs, fund allocations for development projects, and ideas on strengthening the party. The idea had a good impact: it built a healthy rapport right from the top between the Deputy CM all the way down to local leaders.
This however, didn’t go down well with a few sycophants who surrounded Yeddyurappa.
Till date, even if Dr. Parameshwar (President of the Karnataka Unit of the Congress Party) or Chief Minister Siddaramaiah needs to meet Sonia Gandhi, they need to first make a call to Oscar Fernandes. In the past, this place was decorated by Margaret Alva. Thus, just like how Oscar, Alva, and Ahmed Patel are to Sonia Gandhi, Shobha Karandlaje and Siddalingaswamy are to Yeddyurappa. The duo now upped their antennae. A fort was suddenly built around Yeddyurappa. The Deputy CM who had genuine concern for the plight of farmers and the state was forced—for various reasons—to endure the unquenchable avarice of such people.
Meanwhile, Kumaraswamy reneged on his promise of giving up the Chief Ministership to Yeddyurappa. Elections were announced on 25 May 2008. Although the BJP romped home with 110 seats, anxiety still prevailed in their camp. There was the danger of the Congress (with 80 seats) and the JDS (with 28 seats) teaming up again with a combined tally of 108 seats. In such circumstances, the BJP was successful in securing the support of 6 Independent MLAs and forming the Government. However, these MLAs were rebels who had walked out of either the Congress or the JDS. Thus, the danger of them returning back to the mother ship was always present. This danger didn’t go away despite giving ministerial berths to five of these Independents. It was then that the BJP embarked on “Operation Kamala,” an episode that directly axes at the foundational aspirations of an electoral democracy. Now, it required at least 5-6 crores to get one MLA to crossover to the BJP, and then it would require another 15-20 crores to win the by-elections as a result of the defection. The mind boggles when we try and compute the amount of money that would have been required to pull 11 MLAs to the BJP’s side. It was then that the party looked at the Bellary Reddy Brothers and Sriramulu.
That only worsened the condition even further. The Reddy Brothers began to openly strut around claiming that it was they who put the BJP in power. They thumbed their nose at the Chief Minister himself and embarked on a spree of arrogance. They held the first batch of MLAs who came over as a result of Operation Kamala in their vise-like grip. Thus, in a bid to rein in both external and internal enemies, Yeddyurappa launched a second round of Operation Kamala. This time, he handpicked people of his own caste and gave them prominent positions in the Government so that his own seat would remain secure. In a line, Yeddyurappa began to spend more time trying to insure his seat than looking into the affairs of the state and the welfare of the people.
The BJP celebrated its second year in Government at the Bangalore palace grounds. Guess who Sushma Swaraj—who flew down all the way from Delhi—praised on the occasion? She sang mellifluous praises of the good work done by Sriramulu, Janaradhan Reddy, and Karunakara Reddy, and didn’t have a single word for Chief Minister Yeddyurappa who had by then put into motion several innovative and pro-people programmes. When such incidents occur, isn’t it but obvious for the Chief Minister to feel jittery?
Yeddyurappa now began to suspect everyone in the party thanks to such episodes, not to mention his numerous run-ins with the wily Ananth Kumar. For Ananth Kumar, this was a God-sent opportunity. He had been sitting idle for 9 years without doing any productive work, and had been whiling away his time spending the money that he had earned when he was a Minister. This is the same Ananth Kumar whose jealousy made him squelch the prospects of another Brahmin leader Suresh Kumar, who has the reputation of being a clean politician. Indeed, prominent members in the Sangh Parivar aver that Ananth Kumar helped Congress party’s leader N.L. Narendra Babu to defeat Suresh Kumar in the 2004 elections. Therefore, would Ananth Kumar, his eyes set on the Chief Minister’s chair, spare Yeddyurappa? It was Ananth Kumar’s hidden hand that engineered the phony rebellion drama led by the Reddy Brothers. The outcome? Jagadish Shettar who was the Speaker became a Minister. However, Yeddyurappa who is sentimental by nature never understood such cabals.
In any case, whatever ensues whenever intra-party fights break out, when there’s mutual distrust, and when everybody lusts for power, also ensued with the BJP. The sage Vishwamitra was a great renunciate until the heavenly damsel Menaka worked her charms on him. In pretty much the same way, the BJP’s weaknesses came out in the open the moment they were confronted with power and money. Even then, things could have been salvaged had the Central BJP leadership come over to Karnataka, worked out a plan for intra-party harmony, and thrown its weight fully behind Yeddyurappa. The party leadership would have then had the moral right to demand accountability from Yeddyurappa if things went wrong. Instead, they repeatedly sent the postman, Dharmendra Pradhan. Even worse, Sushma Swaraj began to behave as if she was the representative of the Reddy Brothers while a senior leader like L.K. Advani acted as if he was Ananth Kumar’s mouthpiece. The consequence: both the Government and the party hurtled towards the ditch. Thanks to the detractors in his own party’s High Command and a media witch hunt, Yeddyurappa was isolated.
The name of the person in the BJP who made hay even as the party was in such doldrums is Dr. Kalladka Prabhakara Bhat who hails from the (undivided) South Canara belt of Mangalore-Udupi. If the BJP today has been thoroughly routed in this region winning just two out of 15 seats, the entire responsibility of the defeat lies squarely on Dr. Prabhakara Bhat’s shoulders. His haughtiness was extraordinary. What most people also forget is the fact that if the South Canara is a BJP stronghold, majority of the credit goes to Jagadish Karanth, and not Prabhakara Bhat. However, Bhat began to project himself as the builder and the pillar of the Sangh Parivar and the party in South Canara. In the guise of doing social good through his school, he embarked on a “collection” drive. This drive became so shameless that it knocked on the doors of even the Kollur Mookambika temple! It was in this connection that a feud erupted between him and Vajpayee Haladi Srinivasa Shetty who hails from Kundapur. He made sure that Srinivasa Shetty was denied a cabinet berth. His arrogant, octopus-like tentacles spread everywhere from temple managements to the Tulu Academy. His loyalists became heads and members of these institutions. Equally, his sycophants like Srikar Prabhu too showed their true colours. The result: selfless party workers began to distance themselves from the party. It was Prabhakara Bhat who tried to deny the election ticket to a decent candidate like Yogish Bhat in favour of his sycophant, the selfsame Srikar Prabhu. When this was unsuccessful, he tried to sabotage Yogish Bhat’s chances. He was also responsible for throwing strong Bunt leaders like Nagaraj Shetty, Shakunthala Shetty, and Haladi Srinivas out of the party. Thus, thanks solely to Prabhakara Bhat, the election results have convincingly shown how the Bunt community has distanced itself from the BJP. He also rendered Kumble Sundarrao, Vinayachandra, Karkala Vijaykumar, Rukmayya Poojary, and Rama Bhat into insignificance. In Bantwal, he ensured that the ticket was given to an industrialist instead of the deserving Padmanabha Kothari thus ensuring the BJP’s defeat. When one observes all this, it is clear that the victories of Haladi Srinivas Shetty and Shakunthala Shetty are nothing but resounding slaps on the face of Prabhakara Bhat.
If the alienation of the Bunts is one side of the story, the other side is even more perverse. Prabhakar Bhat who wanted the Billava and the Mogaveera communities to take the brunt during dire times forgot them when it came to sharing power. Thanks to Bhat, these two communities never received their rightful representation in any area. The unfortunate folks from these communities who went to prison in the pub and the Home Stay episodes are still rotting in prison. It is difficult to find instances in South Canara where the fingers of Brahmins have been hurt. However, those who sacrificed almost everything for the Sangh and the party hailed from the Billava and the Mogaveera communities. Prabhakar Bhat simply, cynically used them. The result is evident in the poll results.
The answer as to what would happen to the BJP if Yeddyurappa quit is as clear as daylight, across the state. Simultaneously, it has also exposed the kind of phony leaders that Ananth Kumar, Eshwarappa, Jagadish Shettar et al really are. Perhaps, the BJP Central leadership has by now received a rude reality check as to the exact kind of “leader” that Ananth Kumar is.
According to G. Madhusudan of the BJP, “Yeddyurappa may be short-tempered, but he’s not a person to hold grudges.” It’s true that while Yeddyurappa is short-tempered, he’s certainly not spurious like most of the so-called BJP leaders of Karnataka. The sooner the BJP Central leadership realizes this fact, the sooner they put forth a conciliatory proposal to him and re-induct him into the party with full honour, the better are the BJP’s chances in the 2014 General Elections. Else, Karnataka will most definitely turn out to be another Uttar Pradesh as far as the BJP is concerned. If it does not re-induct Yeddyurappa, its fate in Karnataka will be the same as that in Uttar Pradesh after it unceremoniously, humiliatingly dumped Kalyan Singh.