Karnataka syndrome

BJP’s troubles with Yeddyurappa highlight the crisis of a party lacking a centre of gravity

Written by The Indian Express | Published: July 2, 2012 2:52 am

BJP’s troubles with Yeddyurappa highlight the crisis of a party lacking a centre of gravity

Despite all exertions by the BJP’s central leadership to put a lid on inner party troubles till the presidential elections are over,the crisis in Karnataka refuses to be tamped down. Hostilities have broken out again between the rival camps led by former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and current CM D.V. Sadananda Gowda,with the former setting a new July 5 deadline for replacing Gowda with BSY nominee Jagadish Shettar. The party’s central leadership has once again been pushed into firefighting mode,as it considers a compromise that could balance its competing compulsions in the state that had at one time appeared to be its gateway to a southern expansion.

After the initial conquest,the BJP has had a particularly stormy stint in power in Karnataka. The brinkmanship by the Reddy brothers gave way to Yeddyurappa’s public tantrums and political blackmail ever since he was forced to step down as chief minister after allegations of corruption in mining deals were made by a report of the state Lokayukta. Though Gowda was installed as BSY’s candidate,he soon fell out with his mentor,inaugurating a fresh tug of war within the party’s state unit. Most recently,Gowda has been at the receiving end for his alleged proximity to the JD(S) leadership in particular and his ostensible favouring of Vokkaliga interests in general. The personality clash has been reframed as a conflict between Karnataka’s two dominant castes — the Lingayats and the Vokkaligas,the former making up a large chunk of the traditional BJP votebank and the latter crucially contributing to the party’s attempts to enlarge its footprint in the state. With neither side backing off,and given BSY’s acknowledged ability to unsettle the BJP’s expectations in the state,there seems to be no solution in sight to the frozen stalemate till elections come next in 2013.

As the BJP’s central leadership agonises over how best to shuffle its pack in Karnataka,its limited room for manoeuvre highlights a larger predicament. Over the last several months,it has been clear that the party’s central authority does not command respect from,and is being openly challenged by,powerful leaders in the states. A centre of gravity has been missing in the party for some time now. It remains to be seen if Karnataka continues as a painful reminder of the larger syndrome or becomes a turning point.

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