BJP, a divided house in Karnataka

The BJP in Karnataka is a divided house. Disorder reigns supreme within the party as open expression of dissent and mutual accusations have become the order of the day. There have been demands from the Congress and within the party seeking resignation of Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa. But the party High Command is in no position to take any decision amid ongoing Assembly elections in four major States and the Union Territory of Puducherry. Even within the State, byelections are to be held for Belgavi Lok Sabha seat and Assembly seats of Maski and Basavakalyan, all three in the north Karnataka. Even otherwise, the High Command’s hands are restrained as Yediyurappa is a stalwart, has a stranglehold over votes of the Lingayath, the main social component which backs the party to the hilt. With defectors cornering nearly half the cabinet berths, the loyalists are sulking and find themselves voiceless.

Last week senior minister K. S. Eshwarappa went to the Governor Vajubhai Vala complaining that Chief Minister is directly interfering into the affairs of his department. He holds the important portfolio of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj, a key ministry in terms of any party’s votebank. He pointed out that the CM had made allocation of Rs. 1,299 crore from his Department’s funds for three different projects. He termed the action ‘authoritarian’ and tantamount to bypassing the Minister concerned hence ‘direct interference’. Eshwarappa has even pointed out he had made complaints to the Prime Minister and other bigwigs within the party.

Sources within the party however point out that this year’s budget did not allocate money department wise. Rather, the money was allocated under various financial heads and themes, leaving discretionary powers to the Finance Department which is in the hands of the CM.

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There are also allegations that much of the CM’s work is routed through his son B. Y. Vijeyendra, who is vice president of the party in the State. Opposition leader and former chief minister Siddramaiah has even likened him to de facto chief minister of the State. Eshwarappa is a strong Kuruba leader and hails from the same district Shimoga to which Yediyurappa belongs. Political observers even see in the slugfest a sign of ego clash between the two party titans. While Eshwarappa aspires to have the top seat in the State, his social base (read caste) is narrow and there are bleak prospects of him ever getting close to it, although he was twice State Party President. Several ministers loyal to the CM have come out in support of him and castigated Eshwarappa for approaching the Governor and termed it violative of the disciplinary code for cabinet members. Taking exception to the minister’s act, Arun Singh, National General Secretary of the BJP, also in-charge of the Party in Karnataka has slammed Eshwarappa and said he should have taken his complaint to the Party President in the State. However, the High Command has tasked him with brokering a truce between the two leaders who are currently not on speaking terms.

It appears that the entire campaign against Yediyurappa is being orchestrated from within the party as he betrays strong proclivities of promoting dynastic politics, something unpalatable for the BJP. One indication of it is lack of disciplinary action against Belgavi MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal who has been spewing fire and brimstone against the CM day in and day out. Although the party indicated that a disciplinary notice would be issued against him, nothing of that sort has come to fore. In the latest turn, Yatnal has warned that there would be ‘a big explosion’ within the party if the CM is not changed in the State by May 2, the day Assembly election results would be out.

Curiously, all this is happening even as Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi had to resign after a controversial CD casting aspersions against the minister, went viral against him. The Special Investigating Team has taken up the probe and called him for interrogation.

Overall the feeling within the organisation is that the party has been taken over by those interested in power and the attendant loaves and fishes and the disciplined cadres has been sidelined, leading to incidents uncharacteristic of the party.

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