The shadow boxing of old rivals in a new bottle

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The two key players in the latest round of the political tamasha currently underway in Karnataka are the inveterate political rivals, former chief minister, H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JDS and G. Janardhana Reddy, the BJP minister and mining baron.

While the beleaguered chief minster has been on a temple-hopping spree seeking divine help for warding off the dangers to his ministry, on the ground, the battle is mainly being fought between these two worthies.

The political career graph of HDK and Reddy runs on almost uniform lines.

Both had a stratospheric rise in politics, thanks to the clout, political, financial and otherwise, that they wield. Both have a long innings ahead, though at the moment it has been blotted by their sins of omission and commission. Both are politically ambitious, care a penny for scruples and are ready to adopt any means to reach their goal.

And, as far as their relationship with B.S. Yediyurappa is concerned, it has been a mixture of love and hate for  both.

After befriending Yediyurappa to achieve the otherwise impossible task of landing himself in the gaddi of the chief minister in 2006, Kumaraswamy chose to drop him like a hot potato, once the latter’s utility was over. He wants people to forget the 20-month honeymoon and has now turned out to be Yediyurappa’s chief critic.

It appears that the plot for the current rebellion by a section of the BJP has been scripted by Kumaraswamy and his father, the former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

The Reddy story is a bit different.

After worming their way into the BJP while managing Sushma Swaraj‘s election campaign against Sonia Gandhi for the Lok Sabha elections from Bellary, Reddy and his brother Karunakar Reddy and their colleague B. Sriramulu moved closer to Yediyurappa.

They showed their “talent and skills” in mustering support through the infamous “Operation Lotus” for the latter to CM after the 2008 elections. They extracted their pound of flesh all right for their services and quickly donned the role of king makers in the BJP.

When Yediyurappa showed some signs of liberating himself from their clutches and started acting independently, the Reddys hit back hard, launching a campaign for his ouster last November. Yediyurappa had no alternative but to pocket his pride and kowtow to the wishes of the Reddys despite the intervention of the national leadership.

The manner in which Yediyurappa procrastinated on the report of the Lok Ayukta on illegal mining in Bellary district, spoke eloquently of the Reddys’ power to call the shots.

The antipathy between Kumaraswamy and the Reddys goes beyond politics and extends to the realm of mining too.

Being an MLA of one of the constituents of the BJP-JDS coalition, did not come in the way of Janardhana Reddy launching a diatribe against Kumaraswamy and hurl open the charges of corruption against him in the realm of mining.  Despite all the ballyhoo it created and embarrassment caused to the BJP, Reddy got away with it.

The present farcical political drama, which has put the future of the Yediyurappa government in jeopardy, has provided one more platform for the two rivals to flex their muscles.

Initially Reddys were quiet, when the dissidents made the first public move.

Rumours were afloat hinting at their hand in the happenings, because of some of their known supporters were in the dissidents’ camp.  But when it became clear that the whole thing was being masterminded by Kumarswamy, the Reddys opened jumped into the bandwagon  in  a bid to save the ministry, which they themselves wanted to remove a couple of months ago.

The Reddys are known to employ money power, where the legislators’ loyalty is openly on sale.

Kumaraswamy appears  to have been endowed with the resources  abundantly in starting the game and in sustaining it against Reddy this time round. This is evident from the manner in which legislators were herded from one posh resort to another in Madras and Bombay only to be holed up in south Goa before returning to Madras.

Despite the media glare, both made a sojourn to Goa to talk to the dissident legislators.

It is a battle of nerves between Reddy and Kumarawamy. Who wins ultimately will be known tomorrow, of course, since they appeared to be well matched in strategies and counter strategies.