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Mainstream, VOL L, No 23, May 26, 2012

Karnataka: A Fresh Setback and New Political Opportunities

Monday 28 May 2012, by Sandeep Shastri

During the last fortnight, the CEC report submitted to the Supreme Court allowed the central BJP leadership to heave a deep sigh of relief. Ironically, the recommendation of the CEC for a CBI probe into mining and related irregularities, involving former Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa, provided a (brief) moment of respite in what appeared to be an unending factional fight in the Karnataka BJP. In a rare display of apparent unity, the State BJP troika consisting of the former CM, the current CM and the State BJP President met for an open dialogue. In a strategic move, the party unequivocally backed Yeddyurappa. It required just a few days for this ‘concert of unity‘ to come unstuck.

What would Yeddyurappa’s next move be? Would his supporters within the legislature party and out-side it continue to back him? Would the Chief Minister be allowed to add a few Ministers to his Council? With a year left for the State polls, what would be the ruling party’s strategy? These are critical questions to which there appear to be no straight answers!

Given the multiple legal and political battles he is embroiled in, the safest bet for Yeddyurappa seems to be to remain within the party and bide his time. Breaking away and forming another party/joining a party could only further complicate an already complex situation he faces. The Karnataka voters have historically never favoured a third force. With the elections a year away, and given the messy controversies and events of the recent past, breaking away from the BJP may best help him to be an election ‘spoiler’. One should not discount the value of this option too! On the other hand, if he remains in the BJP, he could very well be entrusted with some critical party responsibilities in the run-up to the elections. This would also be the ‘one best way’ to ensure that his supporters remain with him. They now seem to have adopted a wait-and-watch stand.

It is unlikely that the Chief Minister would be allowed to add new Ministers in the immediate future. There are too many aspirants and too few positions and any expansion will lead to immense heartburn and trigger off more dissident activity. Further, the former Chief Minister would vehemently oppose any such move as it would be a categorical indication of the continuation of the incumbent. At best, there could be a reshuffle of Ministers among the present Council to allow the CM to shed some of the port-folios he now holds.

The ruling party seems so preoccupied dealing with the day-to-day political earthquakes that the next elections do not seem to be on its political radar-screen at all. Fire-fighting seems to be its principal preoccupation. The one year needs to be a time for coming together, remaining together and acting together.

Dr Sandeep Shastri, a keen observer of Karnataka politics, is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Jain University, Bangalore.

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