The unabashed hankering for power and exploiting caste lines for it in Karnataka's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is evoking shock and disgust in the state.
People IANS spoke to in Bangalore over the power struggle in the BJP were also worried that the next elections, due in May next, will be fought more on caste lines than on the development plank, though even in economically backward states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh there is now greater emphasis on progress.
"I never thought the BJP will indulge in such a shameless power struggle as it had been charging other parties with being only interested in power," said S Mallikarjun, a retired school teacher in Bangalore.
"I am shocked that BJP leaders should be fighting bitterly for power when their government itself has declared 129 talukas (revenue sub-divisions) drought-hit." remarked N Kusuma, a bank officer. The state has 176 talukas. It is not just shock and disbelief but the unending squabble in the BJP is also driving people to indifference over the developments.
"More and more people in Karnataka are least bothered about these power struggles," asserted K Sudhindra, a software engineer.
"They have become a routine in the country; it is hardly a surprise if it happens in Karnataka. The way the BJP came to power in the state itself was an indication that it is no better than other parties," he said referring to the party making five of the six independents cabinet ministers to garner a majority.
The BJP won only 110 of the 225-assembly seats and needed at least three more legislators' support to get a majority.
Sudhindra said outgoing chief minister DV Sadananda Gowda himself had summed up the people's attitude but unfortunately neither his own party nor any other political party is any wiser for that.
Gowda had said last week that people were not bothered who is retaining which chair. Their concern is that their work should be done properly and on time.
"People of Karnataka are paying for voting the BJP to power in 2008 though the party turned the poll campaign into a battle between lingayats and vokkaligas," rued C Nataraj, a social sciences student.
This was a reference to Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S)leader HD Kumaraswamy, a vokkaliga, failing to honour his word to vacate the chief minister's post to the BJP's BS Yeddyurappa, a lingayat, in 2007.
Kumarswamy had broken away from his father and JD-S president HD Deve Gowda in 2006 to form a coalition with the BJP. He and the BJP had agreed to share the chief ministership for 20 months each as the assembly's term was to end in 40 months.
Kumaraswamy's failure to stick to the agreement led to the collapse of the coalition arrangement and elections in May 2008, a year ahead of schedule.
"Instead of fighting the 2008 poll battle on a plank of a political party not honouring its word, it was projected as one caste betraying the other. It was a sad day for Karnataka and its ill effects continue to haunt it," Nataraj said.
The BJP leadership is at pains to explain that replacing Gowda with rural development minister Jagadish Shettar, a lingayat, is not due to caste politics but part of an overall strategy to rejig the party and government in the state to win the next assembly elections.
Shettar has a chance to rise above petty politics as he is not known to have played his lingayat card like Yeddyurappa has brazenly done to force the party leaders to remove Gowda.
However, he can do so only if BJP national leaders stand by him and not keep succumbing to pressures from various factions in the state unit and stop playing caste politics. That seems to be a tall order as the Karnataka assembly elections are less than a year away.