It was an issue that the BJP could have hit the ground running with after the recent anti-corruption wave. Instead, it chose to dilly-dally on resolving the allegations against its ministers in Karnataka on illegal mining, criminal conspiracy and theft. The UPA has now seized the advantage by allowing the Central Bureau of Investigation to arrest G Janardhana Reddy and his brother-in-law BV Srinivas Reddy, the managing director of one of their mining companies. With this, a powerful blow has been dealt to the BJP in Karnataka and exposed the ineptitude of its central leadership.
That the Reddy brothers derived a great deal of legitimacy from their proximity to certain central BJP leaders is no secret and instead of disproving these suspicions, those supposedly close to them distanced themselves from the issue when things came to a head. Earlier, too, when the former Karnataka BJP chief minister attempted, though half-heartedly, to move against the brothers, his hand was stayed by the central leadership.
This arrest with the BJP leadership acting as though it’s none of its business will certainly damage its attempts to take ownership of the anti-corruption movement. The influence of the Reddy brothers, not the least of which derives from their colossal wealth, means that the CBI move against them will throw up divisions within an already divided state unit. The new chief minister, Sadananda Gowda, is unlikely to be able to contain dissensions in the ranks. The tipping point against the Reddy brothers appears to have been the Karnataka lokayukta’s report on the pillaging of public resources. Also at the receiving end of the report was the former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa.
With growing public revulsion against corruption, the BJP showed very poor political management in letting things come to this pass. Karnataka is its only bastion in the south and was meant to be the gateway to a bigger voteshare in other southern states. The UPA government can now legitimately take the credit for having instituted some measures to clean up the system like acting against the accused in the 2G scam and the Commonwealth Games mismanagement.
This is not the first time that the BJP appears to have misread political signals or failed to take advantage of opportunities to put the government on the mat. This suggests some sort of disconnect between the central leadership and the rank and file and among the top leaders themselves. Apart from the eloquence of some of its leaders, it has not really contributed much to public debate in recent times. The decline of the Reddy brothers should give it a chance to clean up the mess in Karnataka. Otherwise, it would be failing to live up to its role as the shadow government.