Just when he seemed to have weathered one political crisis, Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa finds himself caught in another. After successfully dealing with the challenge from the ‘Bellary brothers,' he is face-to-face with another revolt, this time featuring independents and new entrants to the party. Last year's crisis, spearheaded by the mining lobby of the Reddy brothers, had more legislators ranged against the Chief Minister, but it was less of a headache for the national leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The demand then was for replacing Mr. Yeddyurappa; and there was no real threat of the legislators walking out of the party. This time the rebels have gone straight to Governor H.R. Bharadwaj and withdrawn support to the government. Whether this is a bargaining ploy will become clear only closer to October 11, when a confidence vote will be taken on the floor of the State Assembly. But unlike last year, the opposition parties, the Congress and the Janata Dal(Secular), are active behind the scenes, and the BJP has little room for manoeuvring the government to safety.
Paradoxically, the crisis is, at least in part, the result of Mr. Yeddyurappa's growing clout within the party and government. The Chief Minister is no longer dependent on the support of the independents for the survival of the government. The BJP national leadership freed his hands for the recent Cabinet reshuffle, allowing him to bring in some of his favourites and weed out some of the detractors. While the independents realised they were being put on notice, those who were left out of the Ministry or were not hopeful of getting plum postings in boards and government undertakings knew they were likely to remain on the sidelines for the rest of the Assembly term. What could be the undoing of this band of rebels is the absence of a common programme or any kind of glue other than narrow self-interest. Whether Mr. Yeddyurappa passes or fails the floor test, Karnataka is set for a spell of political uncertainty. While the dissidents are unlikely to disappear in a hurry, they do not look capable of forming a stable government, not to mention offering an alternative programme of development. The BJP continues to pay the price for opportunistically cobbling together a majority in the Assembly after the 2008 general election with the help of independents, and then carrying out ‘Operation Lotus,' a euphemism for engineering defections from other parties. Karnataka, which has tremendous development potential led by India's internationally admired IT capital, Bangalore, seems set to limp from one political crisis to another till the next general election.