It had all the drama that southern politics is so famous for. An ageing patriarch refusing to make way for a coalition partner, dark rumours of defections and finally President’s rule. Now, it would appear that a happy ending has been scripted with the JD(S) ceding power to partner BJP, as had been originally agreed upon. When he is sworn in today, BS Yeddyurappa will become the head of the first BJP government in south India. The party has had its eye on the politically crucial state since the early 1990s and its strategy of forming pragmatic alliances has paid off. Earlier, it cosied up to the Maharaja of Mysore, whose popularity created an upsurge of support for the saffron party. Later, the BJP was able to wisely cash in on the legacy of Ramakrishna Hegde, the man who at one time was considered a potential prime ministerial candidate.
In the current situation, the BJP has come out smelling of roses after the unseemly manner in which JD(S) leader HD Deve Gowda tried to renege on his party’s deal with it by refusing to hand over power. If the BJP government lasts, it will have the advantage of being in power when going in for the next assembly polls. Mr Gowda’s credibility is at an all-time low now. When his party decided to throw in its lot with the BJP after having toppled the government of its former ally, the Congress, he had expressed deep anguish over an alliance with what he termed an anti-secular formation. Now his stance that he will maintain an equal distance from both the BJP and Congress will be taken with a pinch of salt.
However, there could be rough days ahead for the BJP, with the issue of the disqualification of 39 JD(S) MLAs still to be resolved. The party is bitterly divided in the state with followers of BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar and those of Mr Yeddyurappa at loggerheads. Ananth Kumar is widely credited with the growth of the BJP in Karnataka and was once tipped to become chief minister. The caste factor is another reason for the tensions between the two factions. Mr Yeddyurappa is a Lingayat while Mr Kumar is a Brahmin. The BJP’s triumph in Karnataka will embolden it to expand its southern base. This is bad news for the Congress, as a combination of the BJP and powerful regional parties make it that much harder for it to grow in the region.