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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014

BJP’s Karnataka broth

Shekhar Iyer, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, May 13, 2013
First Published: 23:45 IST(13/5/2013) | Last Updated: 01:34 IST(14/5/2013)

There lived a rich man, whose son — a little touched in the head — never responded to anything in life until one day their house got burnt down. As neighbours sought to console the father, all he had to say was “Forget about my house. At least my son laughed today.”

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This is a joke doing the rounds in BJP circles after the saffron party’s thrashing in Karnataka. The blame game — inevitable after every defeat — is increasingly resembling the joke. The rank and file remains confused about the future, particularly about the party’s will to put up a united face before the Lok Sabha polls.

Karnataka was not just another state for the BJP. It was the north India-centric party’s first foray into the south when BS Yeddyurappa led the party to power in 2008. But he was later pushed out — as desired by party patriarch LK Advani and his supporters — following charges of corruption.

BSY moved on, formed the Karnataka Janata Paksha and took away a large chunk of the saffron vote-bank. A section of party leaders cite the huge erosion of the BJP’s vote share in each of the 223 Karnataka constituencies to prove that the results could have been better had the KJP not been in the fray.

Advani’s defence: The party, in any case, had been “absolutely opportunistic” in not taking immediate action against Yeddyurappa. He wrote in his blog that “the surprise would have been if we had won”.

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But Arun Jaitley, leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, told Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN that the cost of losing Yeddyurappa had been “reasonably high” and it was important that one “must blend issues of governance with some prudent politics”.

It seems the BJP’s predicament lies somewhere between the two views.  Was the Karnataka outcome only about numbers and not the goings-on in the BJP’s central leadership? How long can the BJP ignore its cadres’ demand for a quick call on who will lead them into the next Lok Sabha polls?

A section of the leadership is citing the Karnataka results to show that Gujarat strongman Narendra Modi, who addressed three poll rallies, is not the solution. Others argue that Karnataka was hardly Modi’s election. And the proof of his USP was that he alone could draw crowds at the rallies. Sushma Swaraj was next to him, while Advani was virtually a no-show.

The pro-Modi leaders also argue that the party should honour the cadres’ demand that Modi be declared the face of the party much ahead of the 2014 polls, especially when the UPA’s reputation is down.

Led by Advani, the second group demands that the issue be put off till the elections or even after. They predict a break-up even in the existing NDA if Modi is projected as the leader for the 2014 elections.

Many look to Rajnath Singh, who has not gone beyond praising Modi as the most popular face, to take a call. He has, however, avoided the leadership issue so as to avoid confronting Advani, his one-time backer.

Meanwhile, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has gone into a withdrawal mode ever since his candidate Nitin Gadkari had to exit as the party chief in January. But the Sangh Parivar’s middle-level functionaries claim they know the answer.


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