Updated: April 9, 2022 7:15:27 am
Issues like halal meat and hijab could win some votes, but the government must focus on the implementation of budgetary proposals and infrastructure projects; the state BJP unit is set for a complete overhaul; and early elections are unlikely. These are some of the messages Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai takes back from his recent visit to Delhi.
The embattled CM was also told that a long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle would happen soon, after the national leadership has cleared the list he submitted to the central leadership, sources said.
The changes are expected to be finalised during the coming Karnataka visits of BJP national general secretary in-charge of the state Arun Singh (April 12 to 24), and party chief J P Nadda (April 16-17). Nadda’s trip coincides with the state executive meeting in Hospet, Vijayanagara.
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According to party sources, the central leadership, including both Nadda and Home Minister Amit Shah, have ruled out bringing forward the elections, due in May 2023, as suggested by a section of the leaders. “Instead, they suggested that the party restructure itself while the government, after the reshuffle, must focus on governance aspects,” a source said, adding that among the projects Bommai was told to focus on were irrigation works, in order to win back farmers who have been upset with the state government.
“This is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stand that the BJP should seek a mandate with a good report card on development,” a senior party leader, who is an MP from Karnataka, said. “The national leaders have conveyed clearly to the CM that the controversies over hijab and halal meat as well as other issues targeting minorities may help the party consolidate hardcore Hindu votes in some pockets, but for the party to return to power, we need to have a solid performance record.”
A national office-bearer said: “The PM is very particular that the BJP’s main election plank should be development and progress of the state.”
The section seeking early elections felt that the BJP’s recent poll victories and the atmosphere created due to the hijab, halal controversies gave the party an edge. “Some leaders wanted the Karnataka elections to be held along with Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh (which go to polls later this year). But the national leadership was not in agreement,” said a source.
Bommai, in turn, is believed to have conveyed his “dilemma” over the controversial remarks made by leaders on contentious issues, at a time when he has consistently said that his government would go by court orders, after taking everyone into confidence. He has also asked organisations and groups not to take law into their hands.
But even from within the government, ministers have spoken on different voices on these issues. National general secretary C T Ravi recently backed the call for Hindus to not buy halal meat, calling halal “economic jihad”.
A party MP said: “The public stance and statements by some senior leaders have made things difficult for the CM. The governance process has been disturbed by these remarks.”
Among central leaders to have expressed their displeasure over such remarks is Nadda, who had earlier directed state leaders not to make public comments on the hijab issue while the matter was in court.
As part of the development push, in the coming days, there will be a series of inaugurations and foundation laying ceremonies in the state, for which Modi would be visiting frequently.
The state unit has been told to especially focus on northern Karnataka, an area where the BJP has been dominant but where discontent is seen to be building among the cadre and leaders. There have been reports of BJP MLAs contemplating switching parties.
Sources said that the hold over the party unit has slipped since the removal of B S Yeddiyurappa as CM, as reflected in several recent elections, including to local bodies.
According to the national office-bearer, the state unit was also told not to rely too heavily on “the internal conflict and feud between Karnataka Congress president D K Shivakumar and former chief minister Siddaramaiah”.
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