It is unlikely that the Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) thought its scam-tainted former Karnataka chief
minister B.S. Yeddyurappa will quietly walk away into the sunset
after losing his post.
The very fact that his successor, Sadananda Gowda, has had to
insist that he is not Yeddyurappa's puppet is evidence enough of
the strength of the belief that the new chief minister is exactly
that. Besides, as the repeated flashing of the two-finger victory
sign by Yeddyurappa at Gowda's swearing-in ceremony showed, the
outgoing chief minister will remain a major player in the state,
much to the discomfiture of the BJP's central leaders.
That further problems are in store for them is also evident from
the smallness of Gowda's victory margin in the secret ballot for
choosing the legislative party leader. What the narrow margin
means is that the party is virtually split right down the middle
with the party nominee, Jagadish Shettar, demonstrating that he is
a worthy challenger to the Yeddyurappa-Gowda camp.
In fact, with former union minister Ananth Kumar and state's BJP
chief K.S. Eshwarappa on Shettar's side, the rival groups are
almost equally matched. In addition, the fact that the Shettar
lobby has no intention of hiding its dislike for Gowda was evident
from the absence of its supporters at the swearing-in ceremony.
With the battlelines thus clearly drawn, it is only a question of
time before there is open confrontation between them although the
fact that the two groups are almost equally strong will initially
make them tread warily. Instead, they will bide their time till an
opportune moment presents itself.
There is little doubt, therefore, that Karnataka will continue to
be on the boil with the BJP's friends and foes waiting to see
whether Yeddyurappa is able to keep his promise of reoccupying the
chief minister's chair in six months' time or whether the Ananth
Kumar-Shettar group prevails.
It is apparently the awareness of Yeddyurappa's clout that made
the BJP wait for so long before deciding to remove the powerful
Lingayat leader. It was only when Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde's
report left it with no alternative that the BJP finally made its
intention known to Yeddyurappa even at the risk of him taking it
so badly as to smash senior leader M. Venkaiah Naidu's laptop and
slap a hapless bearer of bad news.
It is a fair guess that if the BJP did not have the immediate need
at the national level to target the Congress on the latter's many
scams, Yeddyurappa would have been left untouched on the ground
that his deeds were immoral rather than illegal, as BJP president
Nitin Gadkari had explained.
What also made Yeddyurappa's departure unavoidable was the scale
of the alleged wrong-doings by him and his ministerial colleagues,
the infamous Bellary brothers, Karunakara and Janardhana Reddy.
They and their third brother Somashekhara's rags-to-riches story
began in 1999 when they helped the BJP's Sushma Swaraj in her
election campaign against Sonia Gandhi. Sushma lost, but she
remembered the brothers while the latter also maintained their
allegiance to their influential "sister" in the national capital.
An idea of the magnitude of the scandal involving the charges of
illegal mining against the brothers can be gauged from Sushma's
absence from Bangalore in their hour of trial. Perhaps realising
the damage her decade-long association with them can cause to her
future ambitions, Sushma dropped them like hot potatoes only a few
weeks ago when she blamed Arun Jaitley (her supposed rival in the
power games in Delhi) for the elevation of the brothers.
It was Jaitley and Rajnath Singh - the two had not been on
speaking terms for a while before the 2009 general election - who
were deputed by the BJP's national leaders to persuade Yeddyurappa
to step down. They may have succeeded, but few will claim that the
crisis is over.
There is every possibility that as the noose tightens round the
former chief minister and the Bellary brothers with the
judiciary's intervention, the allegations of sleaze directly
affecting the BJP may exceed those faced by the Congress. In fact,
in the latter's case, it is the sins of allies like the DMK for
which the Congress is paying a price rather than the misdemeanours
of its own men.
For the BJP, the much-touted achievement of an essentially north
Indian party to break through to the south is proving to be a
nightmare. Unlike the Congress, which can claim that it has jailed
nearly all the accused - Andimuthu Raja, Kanimozhi, Suresh Kalmadi
- and marginalized others like Ashok Chavan and Shashi Tharoor,
the BJP knows that Yeddyurappa will not fade away any time soon.
Even if he is unable to become chief minister again, he has the
wiliness to break the party. His victory signs hold ominous
portents for the BJP.
is a political analyst. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org