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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Karnataka puzzle: BSY a kingmaker for Congress or a nuisance for BJP?

Naveen Ammembala, Hindustan Times  Bangalore, April 08, 2013
First Published: 00:50 IST(8/4/2013) | Last Updated: 03:04 IST(8/4/2013)

There's a month to go for the Karnataka polls and the political equations are still fluid. Between the ruling BJP and Congress, if the latter's fortunes seem to have that extra sparkle it is not so much on its own merit as it is because of BJP's faltering politics - scams and controversies - and the BSY factor.

A fourth player in this political intrigue is the JD(S). The party has the support of Vokkaligas, a dominant caste, and minorities in the state and could be a threat to the Congress. For now, it is keenly watching the developments related to the Cauvery issue and the UPA government's stand on it.

A recent Azim Premji University study of the performance of the parties in the local polls attributed the BJP drubbing to the BSY factor rather than any kind of party image issues.

Former Karnataka CM BS Yeddyurappa, who led the BJP to a historic victory in the 2008 assembly elections but quit the chief minister's post in 2011 following charges of illegal mining and quit the party in 2012 to form the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP), seems to have developed a tacit understanding with the Congress.

And while there have been no formal talks between the two, there is a buzz that if Congress tastes power again it will be with BSY's backing.

The foundation of this politicaal camaraderie was laid way back in June 2011, a little before the 70-year-old CM got mired in the mining scam.

As the BJP leadership tried its best to get him to step down, BSY changed tack. He openly applauded Sonia Gandhi for backing even those party workers who "committed mistakes". In the legislative assembly, during the open session on drought, BSY criticised his successor CM DV Sandananda Gowda, saying the BJP government was not using the central funds.

"He took to praising the Congress to save himself from the CBI," says political analyst Dinesh Amin Mattu.

From coy references to overt support, BSY's journey was complete when this March, during the urban local body elections he asked his people to support Congress where KJP had no candidates.

Befriend the enemy's enemy - the message was loud and clear.

And though KJP leader V Dhananjay Kumar insists there is "no derstanding between KJP and Congress" and all focus is on "defeating main enemy BJP in all constituencies", the assembly poll strategy is also in sync with this philosophy.

For instance, here's a look at how BSY picked his candidates - Lingayat (another dominant caste) leaders from constituencies where Lingayat votes can make a difference; weak KJP candidates where there's a strong Congress presence; Vokkaliga candidates to weaken the BJP and split the Vokkaliga votes; and strong KJP candidates, where the Congress is weak, to beat BJP to a pulp.

As for the JDS, sources claim it might tie up with BJP if there is a hung assembly. But once again the denials pour in. Says JD(S) leader Bandeppa Kashampure, "JD(S) once supported BJP to form coalition government. Later we regretted about our move and we felt sorry. We will never, in future, support any communal forces."

Trouble for ruling party
Bangalore: The ruling BJP is in trouble due to anti-incumbency, multiple governance and corruption issues, and infighting. Various leaders and ministers have had their name dragged into controversies, including illegal mining, illegal denotification of land and BPL card scam. Those facing cases include V Somanna and Murugesh Nirani and former ministers Gali Janardhana Reddy and Katta Subrahmanya Naidu.

BS Yeddyurappa, in fact, was the first former chief minister of the state to get a prison stint. The rift and the subsequent split with Yeddyurappa proved costly for the state's first BJP government. Not only did it end up having three CMs - a fact that broadcast the party's lack of unity - it now stands to lose the Lingayat votebank to BSY's party.

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