Daijiworld Media Network
Bangalore, Dec 6: Having tried to recapture the chief ministerial gaddi that he was forced to quit more than a year ago on July 31, 2011 by hook or crook after the report by the former Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde over illegal mining, which preceded a series of charges of corruption, land scams, nepotism and other irregularities, the former Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa finally bade goodbye to the ruling party in the State that made him what he is today on November 30, 2012.
Yeddyurappa or Yeddy as he is generally known by media headline writers, even though the Lingayat strongman dislikes being referred so and at times even gone on record that he would not mind being called ``Dasaiah” rather than being referred to as Yeddy, has not only resigned his Shikaripur assembly seat that he had won in the May 2008 assembly polls to occupy the coveted chief minister’s post, but also gave up the primary membership of BJP severing his four-decade long association with the saffron party.
The former chief minister, who is confidently boasting of becoming the ruler of the State yet again – if the electorate, smiling and favouring him -- is all set to take over the mantle of leadership of his new regional vehicle of Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) at a mammoth public meeting in less than a week at Haveri on December 9, 2012.
First things first. For three years since 2008, he ruled Karnataka like a king. When he was forced to quit, he ensured that his own nominee occupied the throne and unceremoniously chucked him out in less than a year, and another hand-picked candidate was installed in the gaddi.
When in power, he doled out funds from the State Exchequer left, right and centre to all and sundry. But most of the beneficiaries were religious leaders and pontiffs and mutts belonging to different denominations, though mostly those of his community, ostensibly for their social service activities. Not just funds from the State Exchequer, he distributed positions of power and office to his acolytes.
People belonging to different communities, sects and professions were included in the budgetary grants. To top it all, he sanctioned generous grants and launched a series of populist welfare schemes.
Just imagine: He proudly went to town boasting that the budgetary grants and allocations had directly benefitted more than 2 crore out of Karnataka’s 6 crore population or easily every third person.
Well, that is Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa, the man who was `king’ for a while and a king-maker subsequently as he proved in the case of his successor D V Sadananda Gowda or the present incumbent Jagadish Shettar.
Pic courtesy : Daijiworld Weekly
And now, the king is set to ride a cycle to glory, hopefully, yet again. Whether he is able to fulfill his pipedream or not, Yeddy has no illusions left in his mind regarding his primary goal of trouncing BJP in the coming elections to the State assembly and god-willing become King or at least perform the role of being a king-maker, in the event of a fractured mandate.
The term of the 13th Karnataka Legislative Assembly, constituted on June 4, 2008, still has about three to four months – barring its dissolution earlier for holding the next assembly polls ahead of schedule.
But battlelines for the next round assembly elections have already been drawn. The Congress national President Sonia Gandhi, who is also the chairperson of the beleaguered Congress-led UPA regime in Delhi, has already visited the Siddaganga mutt in Tumkur to participate in the 105th birthday of Sri Shivakumar Swamiji in April this year.
In less than six months, she visited Mangalore, which was once a Congress bastion but has become a citadel of BJP and the Sangh Parivar, to inaugurate the Dasara Navarathri festivities along with its centenary celebrations at the Sri Gokarnanath temple at Kudroli in Mangalore.
While the Siddaganga mutt is the supreme spiritual centre of the politically powerful Veerashaiva or Lingayat community predominant in the north Karnataka region and parts of Old Mysore, the Kudroli temple is the spiritual abode of the numerically large backward class Billava community of coastal Karnataka, which is considered equivalent to the Idigas with a sizeable following in the malnad region.
The Congress party’s heir apparent and AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi has already paid flying visits to the State a couple of times to pep up partymen and exhort youth to join politics apart from holding hush-hush parleys with select State Congressmen, specially summoned to Delhi, obviously to iron out the differences and gear up the organization for the coming poll battle.
Simultaneously, the Congress high command has shot down a well-organised and concerted campaign to dislodge the incumbent KPCC Chief Dr G Parameshwar and install senior Congress leader Shamanur Shivashankarappa ostensibly because of his Lingayat caste label. The Lingayat lobby in Congress party seems to have hit a dead-end.
Adding more spice to the already charged atmosphere in State politics, the former Congress chief minister S M Krishna, has already given up his cushy post as Union External Affairs Minister, to shoulder greater responsibility of leading the Congress poll campaign.
Whether the 80-year-old suave and shrewd Vokkaliga leader from the Cauvery belt of Mandya district, who had led the party to victory in 1999 but lost in 2004, would be able to repeat the feat is a big question.
But Krishna’s entry to the State political arena would certainly lend a new dimension to the ensuing electoral battle. Preferring to take a month’s rest after his globe-trotting role as the country’s external affairs minister, Krishna, however, is yet to be given a definite role in the State Congress even after a month.
The other opposition party in the State, the JD(S) led by former prime minister H D Deve Gowda and his former chief minister son H D Kumaraswamy, which also holds sway over the other politically powerful Vokkaliga community predominant in the Old Mysore region or southern parts of Karnataka, is relatively free from any internal trouble even as it has been making its own preparations including short-listing of probable candidates well in advance.
However, two of the staunch followers of Deve Gowda – Vishwanath and Putte Gowda from Hassan district – have already announced their decision to quit JD(S) peeved at the high-handedness of Deve Gowda’s elder son H D Revanna and indications are that the duo are likely to join Congress.
Will SMK, as and when he is given a definite role in the Congress, be able to stem the Deve Gowda-Kumaraswamy onslaught? Time alone should provide the answer.
That leaves the ruling BJP, which is deliberately taken up for consideration and analysis, last because it has the highest stakes in the hustings. Being the ruling party, which came to power for the first time in the State and in the entire south, in the 2008 assembly polls, it has the most to lose.
Though any ruling party in any State or at the national level will have to contend with anti-incumbency factor, the BJP in Karnataka has to face multiple challenges from within and without.
How true? As if the problems and challenges in its home turf were not enough, the BJP has to contend with the allegations against its national president Nitin Gadkari, who looks like treading the Bangaru Laxman way of no return.
Though the party leadership, minus the Advani-Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashvant Sinha-Jaswant Singh-Shatrughan Sinha, have rallied round Gadkari, the BJP national president finds himself isolated especially after leagle eagle Ram Jethmalani’s public criticism and demands for resignation, which have gained the support from Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha.
Coming back to Yeddy and the problems confronting the ruling party in the State, the writing on the wall is clear. After unsuccessfully trying his best to recapture the chief ministerial gaddi or at least become the State BJP chief, which is considered a stepping stone to climb the ladder of power after the assembly polls to wrest the coveted post and toying with the idea of joining a party that might play second fiddle to him -- Yeddy has made up his mind to float his own regional outfit to pursue his dream.
Ending the dithering and uncertainty, Yeddy has announced that he is physically, mentally and emotionally out of BJP, though he would not like to severe his ties with RSS, he quit the saffron party on November 30, well ahead of the day of the launch of the new regional party at Haveri at a mammoth public meeting on December 9.
Fortunately for the ruling party, barely five BJP MLAs and another five MLCs and a mere two MPs, including Yeddy’s son B Y Raghavendra, chose to accompany Yeddy when he went on a procession from the Freedom Park to garland the statue of Basavanna in front of Vidhana Soudha and then walked all the way to the chamber of Assembly Speaker K G Bopanna to submit his resignation letter on November 30. He also released copies of his letter severing all his ties with BJP to the party’s national president Nitin Gadkari.
With BJP leadership making all out efforts to block the ministers from openly associating themselves with Yeddy’s KJP by attending the launch function on December 9, Yeddy has announced that the ministers and even MLAs need not join him immediately and can do so after the elections are announced. However, some BJP legislators and even a few MPs might attend the Haveri rally as if to test waters and see whether the BJP leadership has the guts to take any disciplinary action against Yeddy – albeit indirectly.
The new party with an acronym of KJP similar to the party that made him what he is today and electoral symbol of Bicycle, the common man’s cheap two-wheeler.
If the acronym KJP rhymes with BJP and is, therefore, quite likely to cause confusion in the minds of common people, especially women, the intention is deliberate because that will suit Yeddy. The symbol of cycle is unlikely to cause any confusion in the minds of loyal BJP voters committed to Lotus.
Yeddy, however, has his own reasons for opting for cycle as his party’s poll symbol. For starters, almost all sections of people – both young and old as well as women, the poor and even the rich -- are familiar with this cheap mode of mechanical transport and, therefore, there is no launch a big and expensive publicity campaign. Also, Yeddy started his public life as an RSS worker from his native Mandya district and later in Shimoga, which helped his growth, by using the cycle for travel. He is still remembered for his famous ``cycle rally” as a Bharatiya Jan Sangh leader.
Apart from these reasons, Yeddy is particularly enamoured of the poor man’s mode of transport because it endeared him to the masses, especially the younger generation, as he had launched the most popular programme of distributing free bicycles to all students studying in 8th students in all government schools in rural areas, which was subsequently extended to students of all private and aided schools during his tenure as deputy chief minister cum finance minister under the JD(S)-BJP coalition regime in 2007 along with the ``Bhagyalakshmi” scheme for girl students born in below poverty line (BPL) families. Both schemes became such a big draw that they were continued in the subsequent five years till date and even when the State was under President’s rule twice.
Naturally, therefore, Yeddy believes that cycle is his best bet as a poll symbol.
Yet another important factor may have been the fact that the Shimoga district’s other politically powerful leader, Sarekoppa Bangarappa, who had quit Congress and formed his own regional outfits when he felt slighted and rejoined later, had used the Samajwadi Party’s bicycle poll symbol when he had joined it. Incidentally, bicycle is also the electoral symbol of Telugu Desam party in Andhra Pradesh and, therefore, is very familiar to people in the Telugu predominant areas of Bellary-Koppal-Raichur.
However, Yeddy had a potential problem as the name and symbol of the party that he had zeroed in had already been registered with the Election Commission of India more than a year earlier by one Prasanna Kumar on April 28, 2011, which is long before he ceased to become the chief minister (July 31, 2011). But fortunately for him, that problem has since been resolved, and Prasanna Kumar has agreed to transfer his ``political asset” to Yeddy and latter can happily ride the cycle.
Though Yeddy has been repeatedly asserting that there is no going back on his decision to quit BJP and form his own party, Eshwarappa as well as some of the Shettar loyalists and staunch Yeddy supporters did make hectic efforts to persuade the BJP high command to request the Lingayat strongman to stay on.
The Yeddy supporters were keen on pressurizing their leader to put off the launch of the new party by a couple of months, probably till the end of February to enable them to quit and join him, instead of continuing as ministers while openly associating themselves with the new party as it would opposition criticism.
Knowing Yeddy’s potential for causing damage and even ending the saffron brigade’s pre-eminence in the State, Shettar and Eshwarappa made a last ditch effort to convince the man who has a larger than life image as a mass leader and vote-getter to stay on in the party by calling on him in a hush hush meeting late Sunday night on October 27.
Both Shettar and Eshwarappa did meet the national BJP leaders, including Gadkari, in Delhi on October 30 and had reportedly promised Yeddy that they will make their best efforts to convince the party high command to ``honourably” rehabilitate him in the party by offering any position in the organization. The two State BJP leaders were believed to have even assured him that they or anybody else would come in the way in his becoming the chief minister again, if the party is returned to power.
The BJP high command, which is still tying its best to come out of the Nitin Gadkari imbroglio, seems to have finally given up on persuading Yeddy to remain in the party after the party’s opposition leader in Rajya Sabha and ace trouble-shooter Arun Jaitely failed in his mission. Jaitely, in fact, visited Bangalore once and went back empty-handed without even meeting Yeddy and was able to meet him during the second visit without making any headway.
Krishna’s return to State politics and revive the Congress fortunes, the Deve Gowda-Kumaraswamy campaign to rebuild the JD(S) into a big political force and the efforts of the ruling party and the Shettar regime to checkmate Yeddy – especially the recent Gulbarga package and win over the support of the Lingayat predominant north Karnataka region, where Yeddy hopes to make a killing and the recent inauguration of the Suvarna Soudha in Belgaum and the likelihood of a short winter session of the State legislature – are indicative of the seriousness with which different political parties are gearing up to face the electoral battle.
Given the fact that at least a dozen ministers in the Shettar cabinet and some 75 ministers are considered staunch loyalists of Yeddy, it remains to be seen as how many would like to actually join his party. However, ministers like Shobha Karandlaje, B J Puttaswamy, C M Udasi, Murugesh Nirani, Basavaraja Bommai, Umesh Katti, Revu Naik Belamagi, Raju Gowda among others are believed to be the first to join Yeddy’s party along with MLAs, especially in the Lingayat-dominated northern Karnataka, as they need the former chief minister’s `blessings’ to get re-elected.
V Somanna, who has done a full circle from the erstwhile Janata Dal to Congress and BJP and had firmly aligned himself to Yeddy’s coat-tails, is believed to be going back to Congress with some other ministerial turn-coats like B N Bache Gowda, C P Yogeshwar and Anand Asnotikar.
Though Yeddy has announced his intention to contesting all the 224 assembly constituencies throughout the State, he seems to be bent upon fielding candidates and pour all his energies and resources in at least 125 to 150 constituencies so as to emerge as the deciding factor in the formation of the next government even if he is able to ensure victory of at least 25 or 30 of his supporters.
Along with Yeddy’s KJP, the other unknown and untested entity in the ensuing assembly polls in the State is the BSR (Badava-Sharmik-Raitha or Poor-Labour-Farmer) Congress of Bellary mining lord Gali Janardhana Reddy’s bosom buddy B Sriramulu, who enjoys quite a big following in Bellary, Raichur, Koppal and Gadag districts, and it is too early to say whether the two new and unknown outfits will make common cause with each other and thereby pose serious challenges to established political players like BJP, Congress and even JD(S).
Incidentally, who will align with whom and cobble up a coalition to grab power in the event of a fractured mandate is another big political uncertainty.
While Yeddy would like to be chief minister or king himself, he would certainly wish to become the king-maker or the man who decides who should be the next chief minister in the event of a hung assembly verdict even as humbling BJP would be his first and foremost goal.