Bangalore: L.K. Advani,
once hailed by his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as 'Loh Purush' or
iron man, second only to India's formidable first home minister
Sardar Patel, is no longer so - at least for his party's Karnataka
That is the message the Karnataka BJP, which is ruling the state
for the first time, sent out to the party veteran when he came
here Oct 30 to address a public meeting as part of his Jan Chetna
Yatra, a nationwide roadshow against corruption.
Matching Advani's waning influence over the party is the Karnataka
unit, reducing the state - once seen as the BJP's gateway to
ruling southern India - into a minefield of scandals and den of
Around a dozen ministers, that is, nearly one third of the
cabinet, did not attend Advani's public meeting. All of them are
known loyalists of arrested former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa.
They were against Advani touring the state to talk against
corruption when their local chieftain was behind bars in not one,
but two corruption and illegal land deal cases, and facing
possible arrest again in three more similar cases.
They tried using the media to loudly convey to their once
undisputed leader that he is not welcome in the state at this
point of time.
They told reporters here, of course on condition of anonymity,
that Advani had cancelled the Bangalore public meeting and will
confine his yatra to party strongholds in the coastal districts,
over 350 km away from the state capital.
But Advani did not take the hint.
He is now said to be seeking from the harried state leadership
reasons for such a large number of ministers staying away from his
yatra, not only in Bangalore but also in the coastal districts.
He will have to be satisfied with whatever explanations or excuses
are offered to him, for 'disciplinary action' against absentee
ministers could split the party and bring down the BJP government
which still has about 18 months to rule.
With various explanations failing to provide convincing answers
for their absence, an exasperated Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda
Gowda let the truth out, indirectly though, saying it is an
internal affair and will be settled within the party.
Advani's road show against corruption and black money might have
been overdue. However, his eagerness not to allow his party's
scandals in Karnataka derail the yatra was not only misplaced but
untimely, both for his party in the state and more so for
The state, including capital Bangalore, the nation's tech hub, has
paid a heavy price for political instability that has dogged it
The BJP rode to power in May 2008 with the plea to voters - 'one
vote and one chance' to provide 'su-raj' (good governance).
Let alone good governance, it could not provide even a clean
government as dissidence against Yeddyurappa and scandals
surrounding him and several ministers have engulfed the state
Even as Advani was saying in Panaji, the capital of neighbouring
Goa, that he had no regrets about showing the door to Yeddyurappa,
the arrested leader's loyalists were proclaiming in Karnataka that
he will lead the next elections, due in April-May 2013.
The BJP veteran's Jan Chetna Yatra may not rouse Indians against
corruption as he is hoping, but it has succeeded in further
fuelling dissidence in the party's Karnataka unit.
The unintended fall-out of Advani braving the Karnataka scandals
to visit Bangalore is further weakening of Chief Minister
Sadananda Gowda's position. Gowda is no mass leader and was
Yeddyurappa's handpicked successor.
Given the deepening fissures in the Karnataka unit of the BJP
following Advani's yatra, Gowda's rule might well become a holding
operation till the next assembly elections.
It's a sorry situation that Karnataka could well do without as
more than half the state -- 90 taluks (revenue sub-divisions) out
of 176 -- has been declared drought-hit - a ground reality that
Advani's higher goal of a corrupt-free India sorely missed.
(V.S. Karnic can be
contacted at email@example.com)