In the backdrop of the BJP national executive in Lucknow, it may be beneficial to take a look at Karnataka, which, among all the BJP-ruled states, has embarrassed the party the most in recent times. In his three years as chief minister, Yeddyurappa has won four floor tests, and the last one, which he sought suo moto, was a motion won facing empty Opposition benches. He has earned the reputation of being a cat with nine lives, but then, even according to the proverb, it is important to realise that the cat has only nine lives.
Many within the state unit of the party and Yeddyurappa's own cabinet colleagues have begun to feel, and grumble, that the longer he survives, greater will be the damage to the electoral prospects of the party in the long run. This is notwithstanding the recent by-poll victories. Besides serious allegations of corruption, the primary reason for such a bleak prognosis is because Yeddyurappa has converted the BJP into a 'one man and one community party' in the state, they rue. The majority community of Lingayats have been with the BJP since the 90s and the CM belongs to that community, but they alone are not sufficient for bringing the party back to power. The demographic and electoral arithmetic in the state does not allow that. By excessively posturing himself as a Lingayat leader and demonstrating proximity to Lingayat pontiffs and seminaries, his party-men fear, he has isolated other communities.
Also, Yeddy has projected himself as the tallest leader of the Lingayat community and tried to say that without him the community may drift away from the BJP. However, people from his own community have shown some resistance towards the BJP during the recent ZP polls. "The Lingayats are an enlightened community. They have seen leaders like Nijalingappa and Veerendra Patil, they can't fathom the corrupt image of this CM for long," says Mahadev Prakash a political commentator, who is also a Lingayat. He further points out that the North Karnataka Lingayat maths, where BJP's major support base lies, have not been particularly vocal in supporting Yeddyurappa after the corruption charges came about. These are indicators that the central leadership of the party is failing to read or is deliberately looking away, Prakash says.
Leaving the community aspect aside, the dissidence within the party does not look like subsiding. Fearing this, Yeddyurappa has postponed filling up the seven vacant berths in his cabinet. Even if one assumes that the Reddys have been neutralised after Sushma Swaraj's recent statement, there is very little chance that the other disagreements will dissolve easily. Last time around the state party president himself had led the revolt against Yeddyurappa. He had come around later, rather mysteriously, to stand by Yeddy, but the unease is apparent.
Many see the dissidence as Yeddy's own making. His constant poaching of Opposition MLAs has created a rift inside the party between old-timers and newcomers. A senior minister said: "There is a Yeddyurappa's BJP within the state BJP." Even those he poached have not remained loyal to him. Out of the eleven rebels who were reinstated recently by the SC, seven were people who had crossed over from other parties. His colleagues have now started saying that Yeddy better realise that doling out money, goodies and plum positions can only ensure loyalty of avaricious people to a certain distance, but beyond that it is a larger integrity and vision that counts.
Many of Yeddyurappa's cabinet colleagues and aides also feel that despite being in power for three years —the third anniversary was on May 30 — he has not given them a 'settled' feeling. "Day after day he has passed on his pathological restlessness to us," one senior advisor said. To add to all this are the corruption cases that he is facing. The anti-corruption court has found prima facie evidence and many feel it is only a matter of time before the cases consume him. But first, he has to brace up for the final report on illegal mining by the Lokayukta. The SC empowered panel, independently looking into the mining issue, has already made tough remarks on the state government. However, the CM's loyalists are of the firm opinion that whatever the situation may be in the next few months, Yeddy at 'any cost' will not handover power. It is an extreme statement, but it is a threat that has been reiterated many times privately. He will go to polls or 'do whatever,' even launch his own outfit, but will never allow the emergence of another leader in the BJP.
Yeddy has also apparently taken refuge behind a spurious argument. That he did all that he did, corruption included, for the sake of the party. But when scams concerning his family members tumble out periodically, this argument not only becomes untenable but turns farcical. "He feels the party in Karnataka is only because of him and despite people like Ananth Kumar," a party functionary said.
The confusion that prevails in the state has, naturally, had a reflection on governance. The state GDP growth rate has fallen behind the national average in the last three years. It's time that the central leadership of the party shed its smugness about Karnataka. If not, some partymen fear, that the state unit may implode.