MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The BJP in Karnataka finds itself in an unusual fix. It is not in a position to openly savour the victory in the just concluded by-election to the Karnataka legislative assembly from Koppal in north Karnataka.
It is not that it was an unexpected victory.
A victory was well and truly on the cards when the ruling BJP led by B.S. Yediyurappa, the then chief minister, enticed Karadi Sanganna, the sitting JDS legislator, to join the BJP, as a part of Operation Kamala, the infamous game plan devised by Yediyurappa and the BJP to achieve their objective of mustering a majority in the House without attracting the provisions of the anti-defection law.
The haddi in the victorious kabab is that, in the interim, Yediyurappa has lost his stewardship of the State in the light of indictment made by the Karnataka Lok Ayukta in the illegal mining scam which has thrived under the BJP dispensation in Karnataka.
As a result, the by-election was fought with new chief minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda at the helm of affairs, albeit with Yediyurappa having a dominant voice and role.
Yediyurappa, as is his wont, went gung-ho in the campaign to prove inter alia that he is still the real boss of the BJP in Karnataka.
Result: there are already clear signs of the break-out of an internecine quarrel between the pro- and anti-Yediyurappa factions in the BJP on who should get the credit for the Koppal by-election victory, the first one to be held after Yediyurappa demitted office.
Even as the reports of the party’s success in Koppal reached Bangalore, the party president K.S. Eshwarappa, fired the first salvo saying that that credit should go to the “collective leadership”, a phrase which has come into vogue in the post-Yediyurappa period.
This was endorsed by Dharmendra Pradhan, the national party secretary, who is in charge of Karnataka. But equally quick with his reaction was M.P. Renukacharya, a minister of the BJP government and a maverick crony of Yediyurappa, who insisted and reiterated that the credit should indeed go to his mentor, Yediyurappa.
Truth to tell, ever since he was forced to quit, Yediyurappa has been in a petulant mood. He reportedly gave went to his anger at a party conclave over the manner in which he was eased out by the party leadership.
It is also clear that he is in the political dog house with the BJP leadership frowing upon his move to take out a state wide yatra. Earlier, it had scotched his move to join the anti corruption demonstration in Karnataka in the wake of Anna Hazare‘s crusade against corruption.
Both the central and party leadership of the BJP at the moment are not prepared to give the credit for the victory to the Yediyurappa for quite obvious reasons.
First, it would mean acknowledging the primacy of Yediyurappa in Karnataka, which the national party in the present mood is not prepared to concede because it would present the new chief minister and others in a poor light.
Second, it would also be interpreted as the endorsement of a regime, which had become a byword for corruption, scams and nepotism, which the BJP at this juncture, with assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and the possibility of the early polls to Parliament due, cannot afford.
But Yediyurappa does not like any move to deny him with the credit. He may use this as a plank to pressure the central party leadership to restore his lost position in the Karnataka government, which he has said he will regain in six months’ time. The national leadership at the moment appears to be hell bent on keeping him away from the hotseat.
The fact of the matter is that the credit for the success in Koppal goes neither to Yediyurappa nor to the BJP as a party but to the person concerned, namely the victorious candidate Karadi Sanganna.
He is a locally popular figure and has figured in all the five elections held since 1994 including the present one and has been successful in four under different a political label each time.
Sanganna won his first election in 1994 as an independent candidate, the second one as a United Janata Dal candidate in 1999, the third as a Janata Dal (S) candidate in 2008 and the present one on the BJP ticket.
He contested the 2004 election on BJP ticket and lost narrowly.
It is Karadi Sanganna who has served the cause of the BJP rather than the latter doing him any favour. Yet, in the wonderland that is the BJP, the quarrel is over who should get the honours for the victory, in which neither the party nor its former figurehead had any major role to play.
Photograph: BJP candidate Karadi Sanganna (second from left), who won the Koppal bypoll, in a jubilant mood with ministers Basavaraj Bommai (right) and Laxman Savadi, in Koppal on Thursday (Karnataka Photo News)