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The signs are ominous for the BJP across India. So feels B.S. Yediyurappa. The former Karnataka chief minister is determined to launch his regional party, the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP), after he told BJP troubleshooter Arun Jaitley last week that he could not go back on his decision to leave the party he brought to power for the first time in southern India in 2008. “Nobody speaks. Nobody’s happy. They are all keeping quiet. But I’m in touch with all leaders, Gopinath Mundeji, Vasundhararajeji and others,” Yediyurappa tells Imran Qureshi in an interview.:
The BJP has gone over board in trying to appease you and stop you from launching a regional party. What has made you so bitter about the party that you brought to power in Karnataka ?
First, H. D. Kumaraswamy ( JDS leader who did not hand over power to B. S. Yeddyurappa as per the JDS-BJP coalition government arrangement) betrayed me. That is one type of betrayal. Then, there was the other type of betrayal. Justice Santosh Hegde made an observation which made it clear that as chief minister I did not have to resign. After the Lokayukta report of Justice Hegde, no action was initiated against any official. The only man punished was B. S. Yeddyurappa. National leaders of the BJP were merciless against me when there was not even a court verdict against me. Strictly speaking, the Lokayukta report should have gone to the Assembly and discussed. They gave the reason that they will not be able to target Sheila Dikshit, Delhi’s chief minister, on the CWG scam. Not once did anyone talk about me in Parliament. When I got relief from the Karnataka high court, they did not keep their promise of making me chief minister again. I was cheated. Nitin Gadkari had promised me and Basavaraj Bommai ( close associate of Yeddyurappa and water resources minister) that within 24 hours, I would be made state party president. Then he said, once I get relief from the high court, I can become chief minister. Even when I had the Hubli meeting, where lakhs had assembled and you are witness to it, I received so many calls from central leaders of the BJP not to take any decision. They even went to the extent that they will make the announcement on that day itself. I waited for a year. Now, I cannot even dream of going back after announcing the formation of the Karnataka Janata Paksha ( party). This is what I told Arun Jaitelyji, who I greatly respect, that I cannot go back on my decision to leave the BJP.
Why are you so bitter about the role of Ananth Kumar and L. K. Advani ?
K. S. Eshwarappa, the state BJP president, wants me to clear my name entirely in the court. He also says that I indulged in casteist politics and brought in people from outside the BJP to form the government and this damaged the image of the BJP. What kind of a circus we played to form the government in 2008 ? We were under such pressure from the central and state party leaders to form the government by hook or by crook. After all this, Advaniji even said that he will not come to Parliament if Yeddyurappa does not resign from the chief ministership. So, I had to resign.
Do you feel discriminated against in the BJP ? Do you feel there are two sets of rules in the BJP— one for Nitin Gadkari and another for leaders like you and Vasundhara Raje and Narender Modi ?
"The national leaders of the bjp were merciless. I was cheated. L.K. Advani has a one-point programme: to make Ananth Kumar the chief minister."
For our national leaders no state leader should grow and stand on his own feet. This is the main reason. Why did they promise me and not keep their word ? They should have told me that my term as chief minister is not more than three years. They even encouraged the Reddy brothers to revolt against me and Ananth Kumar wanted to become chief minister in their name. No other state had got 19 Lok Sabha seats. No other state had won all the by-elections, all the zilla panchayat and taluk panchayat elections. We won because of my populist programmes and the support that people gave me. At no other point of time have so many legislators, MLAs and MPs and MLCs stayed with a former chief minister. Even today, I maintain the same strength that I had. The national leaders should realize this. I could have very well dissolved the assembly and refused the resign. I obeyed as a sincere party worker. They thought this was my weakness. In spite of all this, I made Sadananda Gowda as chief minister. Even Jagdish Shettar. MLAs will be with you only when I have mass support.
What is the role of the RSS in this politics of discrimination ? Do you think the RSS favours those who belong to one caste so they can remain in power ? Like Gadkari can but not you.
From Kalyan Singh, Vaghela, Madanlal Khurana, to Vasundhara Raje, Gopinath Munde, Narender Modi —nobody is happy. Discrimination is evident. Ondu kannu sunna, ondu kannu benne (They deceive as easily as they promise). RSS is not interfering. They have left it to the party. Advani has a one point programme to make Ananth Kumar chief minister. They thought Ananth Kumar will automatically become chief minister after me. But, then I made Sadananda Gowda and Jagdish Shettar chief ministers.
Have you, at any point of time, discussed the politics of discrimination in the context of caste with other leaders in the BJP like Vasundhara Raje or Narender Modi ?
Nobody speaks. Nobody is happy. They are all keeping quiet. But, I am in touch with all leaders, Gopinath Mundeji, Vasundharaji and others. Not Modi.
Have you discussed splitting of the party with your counterparts ?
No, we have not spoken about it.
You have had some discussions with some leaders of the Congress party. What are the signals you are getting from them ? And, what kind of a caste axis are you trying to form to thwart the charge that yours will be a purely Lingayat party ?
No. I am not in contact with any of the Congress leaders. But, I am getting tremendous response from the people. In fact, I would say that I am getting more response now than when I went to them when Kumaraswamy betrayed me. All sections of people, including backward classes, scheduled castes and tribes and minorities are coming in large numbers to meet me. You know, the interesting part is nobody has said that I should remain in the BJP. Everyone, particularly the minorities, are saying that I should not go back on my decision to form the Karnataka Janata Paksha. Today, people are not getting the benefits of the schemes and programmes that I introduced. This is the era of regional parties. West Bengal, Bihar, Punjab and other states. Whether it is the Congress or the BJP, the strength of the national parties is depleting. Karnataka is best suited for a regional party. And, regional parties are able to get a lot more from the Centre. Even Chandrababu Babu of the TDP got so much during the NDA regime at the Centre.
A shorter, edited version of this appears in print