Yediyurappa proves a point to opponents and party high command| Opinion
For the BJP nationally, it was critical to retain Karnataka as the national narrative was seen to be changing after the setback in Maharashtra. And the 76-year-old Lingayat strongman has delivered that state for the party.Updated: Dec 09, 2019 15:37 IST
With the Bharatiya Janata Party poised to win more than 10 of the 15 seats that went to bypolls in Karnataka, the big winner clearly is Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa (BSY) who has once again proved that he is indispensable for the party, at least for now.
For the BJP nationally, it was critical to retain Karnataka as the national narrative was seen to be changing after the setback in Maharashtra. And the 76-year-old Lingayat strongman has delivered that state for the party.
In May 2018, the BJP under Yediyurappa had fallen short of a simple majority in assembly polls and had failed to garner support on the floor of the assembly. Many had written off BSY, more so as the BJP high command was not seen sympathetically disposed towards him.
Also Watch l Karnataka by-polls counting: BJP leading, Yediyurappa govt set to survive
Thought the party won 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 Parliamentary polls, BSY was not given much credit for it. The victory was credited to the Modi-Shah duo rather than the local leadership.
But the party, which usually insists that leaders retire after reaching 75, was forced to change its stand on BSY, who showed why he is such a survivor by ensuring that 14 Congress and 3 JDS MLA’s resign from their legislative seats resulting in the collapse of the Congress–JD(S) coalition and his return to power.
The ensuing bypolls were crucial as the survival of the government was at stake. Despite that, no central BJP leader campaigned for the party and BSY took a huge risk by rewarding all rebel MLA’s with tickets and a promise of a cabinet berth – even amidst internal opposition in the party.
While the BJP was expected to do well, the scale of victory is likely to strengthen the hands of Yediyurappa who just a few months back could not even get an audience with PM Modi to plead for flood relief after large parts of the state were inundated.
With a clear majority in the assembly now, BSY is likely to get a free hand to ensure the survival of the government for the remaining three-and-half years and deliver on his promises. But, handling loyal BJP MLAs, who are upset over BSY ‘rewarding defectors’ with cabinet berths, will not be easy for the Chief Minister.
Churn in the Congress?
In the Congress camp, the bypoll results and trends spell trouble for legislature party leader Siddaramaiah, who till now has enjoyed the full backing of party high command. Several Congressmen have lately expressed unhappiness over his style of functioning.
Many in the party expect a churn in the state unit that may see president Dinesh Gundu Rao, who is very close to Siddaramaiah, being replaced. The role of Congress general secretary in charge of Karnataka K C Venugopal, who is seen as a staunch supporter of Siddaramaiah, may also see changes.
Big setback for the JD(S)
For the JD(S), which is struggling to hold its flock together, the bypolls are a big setback. It wouldn’t be a surprise, if a chunk of the party leaders decides to breakaway and join hands with the BJP or even with the Congress.
The saffron party’s victory in KR Pete seat is notable as this was seen as an unbreachable ‘kote’ (fort) of the JD(S). This is the first victory of the BJP in Mandya district, the Vokkaliga heartland. The BJP has traditionally been seen as a Lingayat-Brahmin party and if it manages to add even a section of the votes of the dominant Vokkaligas, it will become very strong.
Winning in Belgaum district, bordering Maharashtra, was also encouraging for the party as many thought that the recent developments in Maharashtra may have a bearing on the bypolls.