The performance of the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka,the first BJP-ruled state in the south,is going to be more than a referendum on the saffron partys southern stint. It will determine the future of Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa,who having emerged as the unrivalled power centre in the state,is now banking on a strong performance in the elections to strengthen his grip on the party.
The murmurs of dissent are,however,becoming more audible. Yeddyurappas attempt to dictate the selection process for the parliamentary polls to favour his son is creating ripples in the party. Despite his earlier criticism of the fathers and sons and dynasty politics of rivals Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress,Yeddyurappa is going all out to field his elder son,35-year-old B Y Raghavendra,a political novice,from the family borough of Shimoga.
Raghavendra is likely to be pitted against the old warhorse of Shimoga,former chief minister S Bangarappa or one of his sons who were all defeated by Yeddyurappa and the BJP in the May 2008 Assembly polls.
The Bangarappas are now united under the Congress banner and are a more formidable force to reckon with.
Yeddyurappa attributes his sons candidature to the will of the people of Shimoga and has pulled out all the stops in trying to ensure a victory for Raghavendra. The work I have done as Chief Minister for Shimoga and Karnataka will translate into a victory for my son, Yeddyurappa said in Shimoga recently. Raghavendra runs an educational institution in Shimoga and he is popular in the district. The high command has recognised his ability and has decided to give him a ticket, he said.
The Janata Dal (Secular) has lost no time in taking potshots at Yeddyurappa for his volte-face on dynastic politics. Former prime minister H D Deve Gowdas son former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy said,All these years,he criticised Deve Gowda and his family for following family politics. Now,he has no problem with it as he is fielding his own son.
Apart from including Yeddyurappas son in a shortlist of 21 candidates for the 28 seats in Karnataka,the BJP has also included the son of the state PWD Minister,the brother of the Horticulture Minister and the sister of the Health Minister. The BJP has also opted to give tickets to several newcomers who joined the party after being wooed under the BJPs Operation Lotus,undertaken to poach legislators from other parties. Leaders like Gurupadappa Nagamarapalli (Bidar),Raja Amaresh Naik (Raichur) and G S Basavaraju (Tumkur),who jumped ship from the Congress and the JDS,have been preferred over old hands.
This,coupled with alleged nepotism in ticket distribution,has led to much resentment in the party with senior leader Ananth Kumar staying away from a crucial meeting to finalise candidates. The Chief Ministers old foes are also at work again,triggering murmurs of dissent.
In public,BJP leaders have,however,sought to downplay the discontent within the ranks and declared that the ability to win has been the sole criterion in picking candidates. We need a mix of old and new to build the party. Old party workers will get their due, said BJP state secretary C T Ravi.
Yeddyurappas campaign in the state has been built around his stated vision of wanting to see L K Advani installed as the Prime Minister with Karnataka contributing more than 20 seats,up from the 18 it won in 2004. A below-par performance will give Yeddyurappa foes the much-needed political ammo to take on the Chief Minister. They can hardly wait.