Saffron’s Eight Sins
What went against the BJP
Can I be the CM? Can I? Can I?
In the circular logic of politics, it’s apt that the election results in Karnataka generate a meaning that goes beyond immediate victors and losers, and has a relevance not limited to the state’s borders or political culture. The grizzled players of the state Congress, instead of losing themselves in celebrations, are eking out a moral from the story and holding it up for the big bosses in New Delhi to see. It’s a nervous message: corruption is bad politics.
What’s behind this curious note of caution tempering the elation and relief at returning to power in Karnataka after a gap of seven years? The survival instinct, pure and simple—and an honest appraisal of events as they evolved over the last few years. What lost the BJP its precious ‘gateway to the south’? There may be no answer as grand as the question. Yes, maybe a ‘correction’ to a rightward lurch in the polity, a bit of saffron fatigue. But equally, an accumulated frustration with the simple, everyday facts of massive institutional corruption. Dovetailed with visible misgovernance.
Jagadish Shettar after putting in his papers, May 8
The way Congressmen tie the narrative to the present situation at the Centre—with the UPA unwilling to let go of two ‘tainted’ ministers for even form’s sake—has a lot to do with how things unfolded in Karnataka. For, whatever gains the Congress secured in this election owes to what the BJP did during its five-year rule. More than the scams, it’s in being totally impervious to public opinion that the real damage came. A feeling had set in at some point that the party cared little about public perception.
The same cannot be said for the BJP’s innings that just came to an end: it had started by changing its very outlook to power. Its innovative ‘Operation Kamala’, to wean away Congress and Janata Dal legislators who later got elected as BJP men, was a classic example of how democracy can be subverted. It was as if, with opportunity knocking by way of its 100 seats—two short of the halfway mark of 112 in the assembly—it would brook no obstacle in the bid to grab and hold on to power. The lack of trust was obvious—it neither trusted the independents (whose support gave it a simple majority) nor its own partymen. Unlike the late Janata leader Ramakrishna Hegde, who was caught in a similar situation in 1983 but went on to provide a good government, the state BJP was just not prepared to make good on its first chance.
To be sure, there was a dichotomy from the beginning between the principles enunciated by the party’s tallest leader then, L.K. Advani, at the time of the 2008 campaign (“Give us a chance to provide a clean government”) and the mechanisms the BJP found handy to gain power. The Bellary iron ore mines had pretty much financed the whole campaign, and Operation Kamala to boot. There was going to be a payback time. B.S. Yediyurappa finally lost his hold on the sceptre by trying to manage the tensions inherent in the BJP’s deal with the Reddys.
Sushma Swaraj with the Reddy brothers. (Photograph by KPN)
And then there was also the humbler corruption of those who were tasting power for the first time. Take the land deals, well exposed by H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JD(S). At one point, the ex-CM was pulling out one scam a day for almost a fortnight. Each of the deals were violative of all norms, including high court verdicts, and related to acquisition of land for BSY’s family members, or whoever found favour with the CM.
The situation had clearly changed dramatically for the man who grew up in the RSS shakhas of Mandya. The time had come to unlearn the moral and cultural codes that had been drilled into him in the shakhas. The new mantra was RoI (return on investment). It’s what the Reddy brothers wanted. Yeddy went the whole hog: from land deals to mining; to backing the transfer of an honest forest official probing the theft of eight lakh tonnes of illegally mined ore the department had seized and retained at Belekere port; to the family’s Prerana Education Trust getting Rs 20 crore donations from the South West Mining Co and getting exposed by an active Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde.
BSY with Modi. (Photograph by AFP, From Outlook 20 May 2013
And when the mining scam hit the ceiling, Yediyurappa punctured the party’s high command balloon further by walking in a procession to the Raj Bhavan to submit his resignation. It was also to send a message: that he alone mattered in the BJP and if it didn’t care, he would teach it a lesson. The high command, bent on protecting its ‘gateway to the south’, boosted his stature by caving in yet again. Why didn’t the party sack him then? Was it the fear of losing Lingayat support, as had happened to the Congress when community strongman Veerendra Patil was removed by Rajiv Gandhi in 1990? (It’s said that they never forgave the Congress—until now.) Whatever it was, BSY successfully converted every single crisis —even his three weeks’ stint in jail in the mining scam, the first ex-CM to do time—into an opportunity.
It was not as if the rest of the ride was smooth. There were many ministers who fell by the wayside, rape charges, cheating charges, a medical education department recruitment scam, the stream of BSY’s close associates appearing one by one before the Lokayukta court on some charge or the other. His close associate, Shobha Karandlaje, also had to be dropped after dissident activity and because she was riding rough- shod over colleagues. Meanwhile, BJP MLAs were getting caught watching pornography in the assembly. Social harmony had become a bad word in the state lexicon. Church attacks, pub attacks, the state was in turmoil.
Mooo... Kumaraswamy and family offer prayers before casting their vote in Ramnagar
It was, again, a lack of trust that finally pushed him out of the party to launch the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP). Loyalty was difficult under the circumstances: some of his closest associates stuck to the BJP to win in the elections. Yediyurappa may have won just six seats but he has delivered a debilitating defeat, one of the worst ever in Karnataka’s history for a ruling party. And it’s not as if he completely took away the vote of the Lingayat community. Even his community, on which he had banked so much, trusted the Congress in several parts of north Karnataka. It is where the Congress got the majority of its seats. Yediyurappa, in fact, delivered the state to the Congress.
In fact, the Congress should be more than thankful to him for this victory. It’s got a decent 121 seats in its kitty, with 40 each going to the BJP and JD(S). It could have got more, maybe even 140-150, if only it had set its house in order by selecting the right candidates. More so in the Old Mysore region where the main challenger was the JD(S). To some extent, one of the reasons for it getting past the halfway mark in the 224-member assembly is the last-minute efforts to get disgruntled partymen working for the party. This exercise went on even in the last five days before polling. Indeed, even now there is no other election machinery that can match the Congress in the last few days of an election.
By Imran Qureshi in Bangalore
Apropos How the Southern Portal Crashed (May 20), there is a statutory warning in small print for future governments, ‘Bad governance kills’.
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
Coalition partners have so far been fairweather friends for the Congress. The vote in Karnataka only signifies the corrupt BJP’s failure, it may be no vote for 2014.
Janga Bahadur Sunuwar, Bagrakote
BSY’s self-pat on the back for his party getting 10 per cent of the voteshare is sickening. He fails to see that it’s just his being a Lingayat and nothing else. Karnataka is a lot bigger than his cubby hole.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
The people have voted against corruption, inconsistency and against a government that took the people for granted. There is a lesson lurking in this for the Congress too.
K. Chidanand Kumar, Bangalore
The only problem with BSY was that he wasn’t deft enough to handle the situation.
S.V. Besur, Cleveland, US
Whatever the reason for BJP’s defeat, it’s also a warning to the Congress for 2014.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
Apropos your May 20 cover feature How the Southern Portal Crashed, the Karnataka election result is neither a victory for the Congress nor a defeat for the BJP. The key player—rather, the key spoilsport—was B.S. Yediyurappa.
No one for a moment, disputes that the BJP is banking on votes on the basis of religion.
And obviously this makes it non-secular = communal. Only the blind cannot read that.
Unfortunately for India, this party was allowed by the judiciary into mainstream Indian politics. And has since occupied SACRED opposition space, as a result of which Indian politics itself has deteriorated. Only blind hate-mogerers cannot see that.
That the BJP rulers had to take the marching orders from the Sandolwood State was only on expected lines. It was a whiff of air for Congress, which otherwise was seen in bad shape with bruises of scams all around the nation. Who did this? Who played spoil sport? Was it Yediyurappa alone? Was it the short sighted political strategy of BJP which unethically lent its weight behind coal barons who are incarcerated now? It was a cumilative effect that rocked the BJP boat. One thing is reassuring. People have a distaste towards corruption and dirt in public life. Santosh Hegde, through the instrument of Lokpal put spot light on the misdemeanours of BJP rule.The ring leaders of BJP, shamelessly held brief for Yediyurappa,initially, only to end up with the elegy. Congress,should bear in mind that it was only the spill out from BJP and not pro-congress votes that led to corridors of power. To sum, the verdict against corruption did have the last laugh.
What was the influence of the ( silent ) female vote?
It is always better to snap ties with corrupt fellows like eddie than to have him like a bandicoot inside the bag. Election proved that he does not present like a great leader commanding the cadre. His achievements are far far less than he dreamt of. It is a good riddance. As for congress, the party has been not in shape at all due to internal pulls and pushes due to the omnipresence of communal factors. What congress got is only the negative vote of BJP and not a positive vote in appreciation of its corrupt past. If one analyses the scams magntude in monetary terms, congress stands unbeatable before bachchaa BJP.
Jaleel >> Veteran Congress leader Governor H R Bharadwaj will be rewarded for his service in decimating BJP in Karnataka.
If i were sonia, i will richly reward Bharadwaj for his service. He deserves a term as Speaker of LS or maybe VP next time. But is the dynasty so generous? I dont think so...
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