It was with great difficulty that the BJP high command wrestled B S Yeddyurappa out of the Chief Minister’s seat in Karnataka, but in this one week the party has managed to slaughter any little hope that remained for a return to power in the State.
To understand this better, we need to see what the people of the state have been going through for some time now.
Karnataka state politics has always been eventful and unique – and that is an understatement. We have seen 15 different chief ministers in 30 years and witnessed President’s Rule on five occasions. Over the last 20 years, the people have consistently elected a government that was not the same as the party in power at the Centre, plus borne the brunt of coalition governments for a number of years.
When SM Krishna declared assembly elections in early 2004, he was the first person in 20 years to complete his tenure as the CM in the state, and held hopes for a return to power. In-party politics and the opposition’s claims of non-development outside the IT-sector saw SMK ushered out of power and his colleague Dharam Singh became the CM via a coalition with JDS. This opportunist coalition kept the BJP – which had emerged as the single largest party in the polls – out of power.
This disaster of a government quickly folded up with HD Kumaraswamy pulling the plug on Dharam Singh and forming a new government with the BJP’s support; Yeddyurappa was made the deputy CM, and assured that he would be made CM at mid-tenure.
On the day of handing over of power, HDK had the sudden realisation that the BJP was a communal party and Yeddy not a person worthy to be CM. One of the few moments in Yeddyurappa’s life that he blamed his counterpart for the unfavourable circumstances, rather than the position of the stars.
And off we went to polls again. The year was 2008. The people had seen the Congress-JDS combine rout the state of any semblance of progress, and had enough of the rampant corruption and non-development via the non-governance. Most of them had voted for the BJP in the earlier election and easily related to Yeddyurappa’s claim of being cheated of the CM post despite having been voted to it.
Holding on to their last straw of hope for good governance, the people came out to vote, and most voted BJP. They saw the BJP as their only hope from the two-party rule they had witnessed in Karnataka for a while – the Congress and the Janata Dal (in its various forms). The BJP won with a massive mandate, notably reducing the JDS to just 28 of the 224 seats.
The people had barely any time to celebrate, as Yeddyurappa soon got caught up in saving his seat. Every single day brought a new story, a new drama, a new allegation: Yeddy was not only fighting HDK and the Congress, but his own party cadre, notably the Reddys and others who wanted to bring him down. Despite all his efforts – including a Surya Namaskaara in the buff on an Amavasya night, Yeddy could only last 26 months. Yet another Chief Minister did not complete his term.
The process of selecting the new CM was disastrous to say the least, to the extent that almost half the BJP legislators boycotted the swearing in of DV Sadananda Gowda as the new CM. And since then, there is an ongoing tussle within the two groups of the BJP to see who can get the more ministerial berths and the plum posts. Word is that the Jagadish Shettar faction is pitching for two Deputy CM posts in lieu of losing out the CM seat!
Clearly, governance is the last thought on the minds of the Karnataka legislators right now. Their one-point agenda is to maximise their earnings in the short amount of time they have before they need to try getting re-elected. Perhaps they indeed understand their voters and know what would happen to them in the next elections?
The people of Karnataka are not entirely new to the situation they are in today. Yet, it is different.
Having had enough of losing out to the politics of caste, nepotism, favourism, and corruption that had come to define Karnataka, the people voted BJP hoping that they would turn out different. The promise of it being the first BJP government in South India was immense and offered great potential in development and path-breaking reforms.
And today the BJP has proved to be not any different from the other two parties that the people always had to elect; in many matters they have emerged only worse. We are now seeing a new coalition government in the State – that of the BJP and the BJP. Only time will tell how long this government will last, what with all the powers that be trying to bring it down and usurp power in every way possible.
Had the BJP high command kept an eye out on the local politics and not bowed to inflated egos and business interests, they may perhaps have consolidated into a powerful force to reckon with – not only in Karnataka, but entire South India. Instead, they have written their epitaph.
It will only take till the next assembly elections in Karnataka for the BJP to kiss the CM seat goodbye. And if the ground indications are anything to go by, they can kiss it goodbye for a long time to come.