It's too soon to write him off
BS Yeddyurappa can do to the BJP in Karnataka precisely what Sharad Pawar has done to the Congress: play not just kingmaker but also a spoiler.Updated: May 02, 2013 19:20 IST
Once upon a time the BJP was in power in Gujarat and in danger of losing the elections. Then along came Narendra Modi and presided over the killings of thousands of Muslims and things have never been the same for either the BJP or the nation ever again.
What has been happening in Karnataka over the past five years reminded me of how the BJP had been shooting itself in the foot in Gujarat and it had me worried because the state had already been displaying signs of intolerance by a certain section of the majority community towards the minorities or even anyone who was different. I would never have believed that I would ever say this but now I am thankful that all that Karnataka's politicians did was to limit themselves to making money and did not unleash the Gujarat kind of mayhem. That would have been tragic given the south has never had the kind of intolerance towards minorities as has always been the case in northern parts of the country--one Modi is more than enough and all that India could bear and put up with.
And that is particularly true for Kerala where until recent years the three communities of Hindus, Muslims and Christians, even Jews, were united by one culture and one way of life, and religious differences were of no consequence. Sadly, the state has become both a fishing and a hunting ground for Islamic terrorists and I was not surprised that some Hindu gurus should see in Modi a saviour and invite him to a religious event - as though that would make a difference to the steady inroad of anti-social elements into the southernmost state of India.
But I am glad to see that people and political parties across the spectrum have frowned upon Modi's presence and furiously decried the minister who sought to meet Modi, frightening him into regrets and apologies. The people asked why Modi should be a role model any which way as Kerala did not even want or need the Gujarat model of development, bringing home the so-called untouchability factor to Modi in no uncertain terms.
But while that incident might be an aberration for Kerala, Karnataka should have been different. For it is not just BS Yeddyurappa, former chief minister, who was responsible for the BJP's growth in that state. I covered the Idgah Maidan controversy on Hubli some years ago, which is what really propelled the BJP to power. I was then shocked to discover that the BJP had been making such a fuss about what had earlier been housing a public toilet and is now a parking lot - so converted after the BJP got to power in that state. So much for the sanctity of symbols and symbolism.
The Idgah Maidan is now quite forgotten and it is the Bellary mining scam that seems to have become the defining issues for the BJP along with personal egos of various BJP leaders that will determine the outcome of the elections this season. I note that many BJP leaders are writing off Yeddyurappa but I would not make too much haste to deride him as a non-entity. After all, he has been under the tutelage of NCP chief Sharad Pawar for months now and can do to the BJP in Karnataka precisely what Pawar has done to the Congress in Maharashtra - play not just kingmaker but also a spoiler. The BJP ought to be as wary of him as the Congress is of the NCP. But on the contrary, I notice some BJP leaders are mocking Yeddyurappa and claiming that this might be his last election and the end of his political career. I recall that is what the Congress had said about Pawar when he split the party in 1999 - and today he is still going strong, an important and valued ally for the Congress, never mind all the corruption charges against his nephew and even him in the past.
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh had once said it would be best not to celebrate the terhavin (the thirteenth day death ceremony) of any politician or political party until you have actually celebrated it. That might be as true of Yedyurappa as it was of Pawar and I would even include Modi in that bracket - and also the reverse: never overestimate their strengths either.
For the moment I am just glad that this time around it is secular issues that define the southern states and the Karnataka elections. That puts the nation on an even keel again, I guess.
(The views expressed are personal.)