Note: This is my translation of Pratap Simha’s column published in Kannada Prabha on 28 September 2013.
One incumbent Chief Minister. Another one, a former Chief Minister. Two Chief Ministers. Two Deputy Chief Ministers. This apart, one party president appointed solely to prevent the voters of North Karnataka from moving away from the party. One “national face” of the party (a general secretary no less)! The man who built the party from the scratch–L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj, and an unwilling Narendra Modi who nevertheless landed up in Bangalore to campaign. All of these toured the entire state to campaign for the party. They declared in their speeches that the party was corruption-free after the exit of Yeddyurappa.
What did the result of 8 May 2013 look like? We’ve seen spectacular defeats of incumbent parties. However, how many examples do we have where the ruling party has been pushed to the third place? And this despite the whirlwind campaign tour by no less than two Chief Ministers, two Deputy CMs, national leaders. A party which had 121 seats before the elections crashed down to a miserable 40. This simply shows the kind of confidence people have in their words. A classic illustration is when Narendra Modi arrived to address a rally in Basavanagudi. Jagadish Shettar and Ananth Kumar who spoke before him were roundly booed by the crowd. This response by itself was the loudest verdict of the kind of faith people had in them–and this was before the elections. Indeed, the 8 May result was simply an expression of this response. We cannot blame Prahlad Joshi harshly because he was made the party State President almost on the anvil of elections. However, the people of Karnataka solidly rejected Jagadish Shettar, Sadananda Gowda, K.S. Eshwarappa, and R. Ashoka’s appeals. This same rejection was reflected even more horrifically at the end of May during the Periyapattana by polls. What do you think was the 2013 fate of the BJP which had conclusively won this seat in 2008? If the BSR party’s candidate secured the third place by polling 5000 votes, the BJP hit the fourth place with a paltry three thousand five hundred votes! In other words, the BJP’s showing was worse than that of a party whose chief has the taint of illegal mining.
Thus, your guess is as good as mine as to the fate of the BJP if it campaigns in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls with such leaders at the state level.
How many seats do you think Karnataka would give the BJP which is all set to oust the Congress at the Centre and come to power? Based on the district-wise figures the BJP polled in the 2013 assembly polls, the BJP will get exactly two seats in 2014. And these two seats won’t come from its strongholds of Bangalore South or Mangalore. They will come from Belgaum and Chikkodi! But then, this time around, it’s tough to predict whether the BJP will in fact win even these two seats. This is because the BJP is ahead of Congress in Chikkodi by a mere 4527 votes. Although the Belgaum lead is much better at 14865, everybody knows that that is because of Umesh Katti and Ramesh Katti. Now, one never knows whether or not they will remain in 2014 with the BJP. And if the 2013 Vidhan Sabha poll results are an indicator, the five-time MP Ananth Kumar will lose in 2014 by a margin of 56,000 votes!
If this is the case…
The BJP which hopes to capture power in the Centre needs to aim for a seat tally in the 180-200 range. If this is the case, how does it hope to compensate the impending loss of the 19 seats that it’ll suffer in Karnataka? Alternatively, what is the BJP central leadership doing to minimize this eventual loss? Although it is true that voters have different calculations in mind when they vote in the Vidhana Sabha and Lok Sabha elections, in the present case, it is not enough to just ride on the Narendra Modi wave; a strong state leader of the party who can galvanize the cadre and bring voters to the polling booth is the need of the hour. Where is that kind of leader in Karnataka BJP at the moment? A person who had opposed Modi until the evening of 13 September 2013, suddenly did a U-turn after he was anointed the PM candidate, and overnight, made arrangements with the result that the next morning, all prominent traffic junctions in South Bangalore were splattered with huge posters of him posing with Narendra Modi, an open advertisement of the jitters he’s feeling this time around. Equally, this is also a testament to his strength. His name is Ananth Kumar, the same five-time MP from South Bangalore.
When he was the CM, Yeddyurappa won a record 17 victories for the BJP in bypolls. However, another CM, Jagadish Shettar was unable to garner an MLC seat for his own brother during the recently-concluded elections! And the other ex-CM, Sadananda Gowda who had vacated his own constituency of Udupi-Chickmagalur was unable to win it back for the party! Then there’s the other prominent member of the Ananth Kumar Drama Company, the ex-Deputy CM K.S. Eshwarappa, who seems to have become a synonymn for arrogance. And R.Ashok is like that cat on the fence. One never knows which side he will jump. So what exactly would be the outcome for the party if the BJP goes to the Parliamentary polls with this quality of leadership? Won’t it suffer the same fate as it did during the Assembly polls?
In a recent interview, Arun Shourie remarked that the real leadership in BJP lies in the states.
The party’s PM candidate Narendra Modi is certainly aware of the truth in Shourie’s statement. Apart from Arun Jaitley, Modi is not in a position to place faith in any of the BJP leaders in Delhi. This is perhaps the reason that he wholeheartedly praised the achievements of Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chattisgarh CM Raman Singh, and Rajasthan’s Vasundara Raje (who’s all set to storm to power this time) in his recent rally in Bhopal. Indeed, the role of these state BJP leaders in working towards his Prime Ministership is paramount.
And as far as Karnataka is concerned, there is only one person who has displayed that kind of leadership: former Chief Minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa.
It’s not as if the other leaders in the state BJP as well the cadre isn’t aware of this fact. In a state party convention that was held a few days prior to the BJP’s National Executive meeting at Goa, C.T. Ravi, Aravind Limbavali, Bommai and other leaders raised this point. When they insisted that a count be taken as to how many people in the BJP wanted Yeddyurappa to return, an overwhelming 99% said yes. After this convention, a delegation of youth leaders met the leadership in the Goa National Executive meet and impressed this fact upon the BJP central leadership. However, back then, there was confusion in the party with respect to Modi’s role and so the Yeddyurappa issue was put on the backburner. Now that the obstacles to Modi’s elevation have been cleared and he is indeed the party’s PM candidate, it is up to him to consider Yeddyurappa’s return in order to stem the prospect of the severe drubbing the BJP will receive in the Lok Sabha polls. Just like how Narendra Modi insisted on deputing Amit Shah to Uttar Pradesh, he needs to take a similar, strong stand to reinduct Yeddyurappa into the BJP.
Indeed, consider the exact scenario in case Yeddyurappa joins forces with the Congress.
If the results of the recent Assembly polls are an indicator, the Congress is set to sweep a whopping 24 seats on its own and the BJP and JDS will end up with two seats respectively! The Congress tally will include the KJP’s contribution of a 10 per cent voteshare. If this alarming outcome needs to be stopped or minimized, it is inevitable for the BJP to reinduct Yeddyurappa. If the KJP merges with the BJP, the BJP’s tally will increase to 7, and if BSR too merges with the BJP, the tally will hit 10. Once this happens, at least another four or five seats will come within the BJP’s striking range. With this, the factor of the Modi wave will also up its chances to garner at least 15 seats. Let’s not forget the fact that had the BJP and KJP joined forces in the Assembly polls, the combo would have obtained 93 seats.
If these are the facts on the ground, why are the State and the Central BJP leadership still counting sheep?
It is nobody’s case that the corruption during Yeddyurappa’s tenure is justifiable. However, what about Sheila Dikshit who continues to be the Delhi Chief Minister despite the Lok Ayukta’s report which found her guilty of the misuse of taxpayer money to the tune of Rs. 18 Crores? Indeed, the shameless Congress has stooped to the level of exerting pressure on even the President with the sole purpose of protecting her! In the same breath, the same shameless Congress preaches lessons in ethics to the nation after being guilty of scams to the tune of 5.43 lakh crores! Equally, not one media house has a word of condemnation against this party. Anyway, when the illegal mining episode erupted, it also coincided with the massive display of public anger against corruption across the country, a factor that worked against Yeddyurappa, too. However, after Yeddyurappa’s exit, there was not a single leader who could take the BJP forward in Karnataka. Look a the current state of affairs in the state. It’s four months since the Congress Government is in power but not a single voice from the BJP can be heard. State BJP leaders have been unable to utilize the Anil Lad-Santosh Lad issue to tarnish the Congress Government. If this is the sorry state of affairs, from where does the BJP hope to get the remaining 17 seats?
Indira Gandhi was a totalitarian ruler. However, she was not a traitor. But the Congress party of today is engaged in the treacherous act of looting the nation on a massive scale. In such a situation, the only recourse is to strengthen the BJP in every state, and this strengthening has to be undertaken by leaders who have the calibre of Yeddyurappa. Even today, if anybody has the energy and stamina to tour every nook and corner of Karnataka, to motivate the cadre, and to assemble massive crowds, it is only Yeddyurappa. This apart, he also has the ability to deliver stinging blows to the ruling party by the force of his speech. Meanwhile, the old tigers in the Karnataka Congress party are ganging up against Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s brand of “Ahinda” (casteist) politics. These old tigers are aware that they cannot shake Siddaramaiah if the Congress manages to do well in the upcoming national elections. The KPCC Chief Dr. Parameshwar too, knows that his dream of sitting on the Chief Minister’s chair will come true only if the Congress fails to do well in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Within the Congress fold, there is deep resentment over the fact that Siddaramaiah an outsider, has become the CM. However, fear of the High Command has helped freeze the resentment for the moment. Thus, there is every possibility of internal sabotage occuring during election time. On the other side, the JDS which has reduced itself to a party of father, sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren has completely lost its relevance as evidenced by the solid clobbering it received during the recent Lok Sabha bypolls–a clobbering which was delivered by its traditional, loyal Vokkaliga voters of the Bayaluseeme belt. Deve Gowda has been left staring open-mouthedly at the serial defeats delivered by his daughter-in-law.
The BJP stands to gain immensely by exploiting such chinks in the opponents’ armour.
In this backdrop, the party needs to step up its efforts in bringing Yeddyurappa back into its fold. Then there’s also the question of the Lingayats feeling alienated. Bringing Yeddyurappa back and giving him an elevated position in the party will hugely help in allaying this feeling. If he’s reinducted into the BJP without giving him the leadership, how will he even revive its fortunes? And if Prahlad Joshi needs to win in the Lok Sabha polls, if he needs to retain his position as the state party President, he too, needs Yeddyurappa. Meanwhile, Sogadu Shivanna who lost his deposit in the previous elections has thundered that Yeddyurappa is “welcome to rejoin the party but not the others who quit with him.” Thus, Prahlad Joshi’s other urgent task to warn such tinpot suggestion-givers to keep their counsel to themselves. It makes sense only if the team also follows the captain.
If the BJP doesn’t understand this, if it doesn’t urgently reinduct Yeddyurappa…..