The architect of the BJP’s first electoral success in the south, and its most popular face, Mr. Yeddyurappa is today fighting for a second lease of political life, outside the party he was with for the last 30 years, and against it.
Both history and the current moment are against B.S. Yeddyurappa, former Chief Minister and undisputed leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka, who quit his parent party to join the Karnataka Janata Party. The architect of the BJP’s first electoral success in the south, and its most popular face, Mr. Yeddyurappa is today fighting for a second lease of political life, outside the party he was with for the last 30 years, and against it. In the past, mass leaders of national parties who formed breakaway regional outfits in Karnataka saw these parties exterminated in the polls. D. Devaraj Urs’s Karnataka Kranti Ranga and Congress (U), S. Bangarappa’s Karnataka Congress Party, and even H.D. Deve Gowda’s State unit of the Samajwadi Janata Party, were electoral disasters all. By re-casting himself as a loyal party man who was edged out by scheming colleagues, Mr. Yeddyurappa seeks to dodge his own role in his downfall. This is rich irony coming from a politician who was arrested on corruption charges after he stepped down as chief minister, and who, in the public mind, is now indivisible from his reputation of being corrupt. A CBI charge-sheet alleges he had a criminal nexus with mining firms, and the Lokayukta Special Court is examining more than a dozen classified instances of alleged illegalities and corruption by him and his family members, including those relating to de-notification of lands that favoured them and other politicians.
The former chief minister’s exit from the BJP, as the State enters election year, is clearly aimed at ensuring his own political survival and leveraging political alliances that he hopes will protect him and his family members from the tightening noose of the law. In the current fractious political milieu, where no party is likely to emerge an electoral front-runner, he is perhaps calculating that in a hung assembly scenario, even a small party will emerge with disproportionate political clout. This also explains the feelers that he is sending out to the Congress party in Karnataka through his public statements in favour of the infamous 20-point programme of the Emergency years, and his new-found interest in the welfare of minorities in the State. He has also stated that he will not destabilise the present government, an adroit step that will allow his supporters the loaves of office in the last lap of their tenure. It is the BJP that will feel the Yeddyurappa-effect most sharply — electorally of course, but also in the exposure of its own flawed ethics. After all, it is this party that rode to power on the back of the mining mafia, corrupting the machinery of governance and the State’s political culture.