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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Battle for Karnataka

BJP should have learnt from Sonia
Pankaj Vohra, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, May 08, 2013
First Published: 20:09 IST(8/5/2013)
Last Updated: 00:53 IST(9/5/2013)

The Karnataka assembly election outcome for the Bharatiya Janata Party would not have been so dismal had its leadership drawn a leaf from Congress president Sonia Gandhi's political acumen and persisted with its old war horses.

The results have clearly demonstrated that they were hugely influenced by the absence of former chief minister BS Yeddyuruppa as the spearhead of the party's campaign in the state. There are many political analysts who believe that if Yeddyurappa would have been in the Saffron line up, the report card would not have been so heavily tilted towards the congress. Being the tallest leader and architect of the party in this Southern state, his humiliation was a factor which sunk the BJP.

It is being said that in dispensing with Yeddyurappa, the BJP leadership paid a heavy price. Unlike Sonia Gandhi who decided to go ahead with Virbhadra Singh as her party's main mascot in Himachal Pradesh despite unsubstantiated corruption charges leveled against him by his adversaries, the BJP decided to sacrifice their strong man. The Congress president knew that the party had no chance without Virbhadra who is clearly the most popular leader in the hill state but also that charges against him were both baseless and handiwork of his rivals both inside and outside the party. She decided to gamble with him and the party reaped dividends and returned to power.

In Karnataka, veteran BJP leader LK Advani was keen from the very beginning to bring his protégé Ananth Kumar as the chief minister. Realising the caste factor would never allow this to happen, he tried his level best to dislodge Yeddyurappa. In fact, according to BJP insiders, Yeddyurappa was a victim of his own party's inner  power politics rather than that of the Congress. He was replaced as the CM and made the president of the state party unit. Finally circumstances were created so that he went out and formed his own outfit. This self-destruction exercise, which is being described by BJP spokespersons as their commitment to combat corruption, has boomeranged on the Saffron Brigade.

The moral of the two recent elections where the BJP has been humbled is that while Sonia Gandhi got it right in Himachal and backed Virbhadra, Advani and company got it wrong when they threw out Yeddyurappa. Secondly like in Himachal, the Narendra Modi factor did not work in Karnataka either. However, the consolation for the BJP is that if one goes by recent history, whoever wins Karnataka never forms the government in New Delhi. So there is still hope.


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