Bangalore: Ruling Karnataka for the first time, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will complete four years in power on May 30 with little to cheer and much to worry about seeking another mandate in the assembly elections less than a year away. The state's first BJP chief minister, B S Yeddyurappa, is facing a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe, as directed by the Supreme Court on Friday, into corruption charges after he was forced to quit over these charges in July last year.
The party's second chief minister, D. V. Sadananda Gowda, who succeeded Yeddyurappa on Aug 4, has been running the show unsure about how many days he will be in office since the party leadership is more concerned about placating the former chief minister and his supporters.
Though the apex court ordering a CBI probe is a severe setback to Yeddyurappa, who has been trying for a reinstatement, it does not provide relief to the BJP national leadership either. The vacillation by the BJP in firmly handling the Karnataka crisis has split the party into camps of pro- and anti-Yeddyurappa leaders, old-timers, new entrants and even a neutral one.
Ruling Karnataka for the first time, BJP will complete four years in power on May 30 with little to cheer.
The relationship between Yeddyurappa loyalists, many of whom crossed over to the BJP in the last five years and have been rewarded with cabinet berths, have soured beyond repair, particularly after the leak this week of a March 26 letter by Gowda and state BJP chief K S Eshwarappa to party president Nitin Gadkari.
In the letter, Gowda and Eshwarappa accuse Yeddyurappa and several ministers loyal to him of anti-party activity and assert that their presence in the government is harmful to the party. The letter accuses them of colluding with the Congress to harm the BJP.
One camp is pointing fingers at Gowda for leaking the letter days ahead of the expected Supreme Court decision on ordering a CBI probe against Yeddyurappa.
Given this bitterness, any attempt by the BJP leadership to drop the leaders from the cabinet could mean an end to the Gowda government and early assembly elections. The party is no shape to face the electorate. It does not have a leader who can enthuse the demoralised party cadre and sympathisers to give the party another chance in the state.
Even Yeddyurappa, who is largely credited with bringing the party to power in the April-May 2008 assembly polls, had an effective platform to campaign -- betrayal by the Janata Dal-Secular (JDS) in 2007. The 'betrayal' was refusal by then JDS chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy heading the JDS-BJP coalition government to vacate the seat for Yeddyurappa as per the understanding the two parties had reached when they aligned to form the council of ministers.
The 'betrayal' was cleverly given a caste colour by Yeddyurappa, who belongs to the politically powerful Lingayat community which accounts for about 17 percent of the state's 65 million population. Kumaraswamy belongs to the Vokkaliga community, which constitutes about 15 percent of the state's population. The two communities have dominated the Karnataka politics for decades.
However, even the campaign of the 'betrayal' of Lingayats by Yeddyurappa did not give the BJP a clear majority in the 225-member assembly as the party won just 110 seats. It had won 79 seats in the 2004 assembly polls. The party managed the majority by roping in five independent legislators but had to reward them with cabinet posts. It later wooed Congress and JDS legislators to get majority on its own -- 120 members.
Now the party has neither a powerful campaign theme nor a strong leader. It only has a litany of charges and court cases against at least 20, including Yeddyurappa, of its 120 legislators now.
With the apex court directing the CBI to file its report on the probe against Yeddyurappa by August 3, the BJP leadership may again fall back on the course it has followed so far on Karnataka -- wait for court cases to get over. That is what Yeddyurappa and his supporters will be working for in the coming days, leaving little room for the indecisive leadership to set the sinking BJP ship in order in Karnataka before the state heads for the polls.