KS Eshwarappa has initiated a Sangolli Rayanna Brigade, and both Yeddyurappa and Siddaramaiah will watch out for it

Why Ktaka BJP leaders new OBC-SCST brigade is unsettling for both BJP and Congress
Voices Opinion Monday, August 22, 2016 - 09:12

It is generally taken for certain that any initiative by a politician is not without an ulterior motive. The benefit accruing from such an initiative will, invariably, be either in multiples or end in a big zero. With this simple premise, Karnataka BJP’s senior leader K S Eshwarappa has set into motion a platform that could well play a not-so-insignificant role in the run-up to the assembly elections due two years from now.

Eshwarappa has initiated a Sangolli Rayanna Brigade essentially to create a base among the backward classes and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes akin to the AHINDA (Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and scheduled castes and scheduled tribes) platform. Akin because given the nature of the BJP’s politics, it can be called only HINDA since it would not like to seek the votes of the minorities.

It was the AHINDA platform that pitchforked Siddaramaiah from the Janata Dal (S) to the Congress to become the chief minister in 2013. No, it does not mean that a loyalist like Eshwarappa will leave the BJP. There are, however, a number of doubts being expressed over this move by the former deputy chief minister in the BJP government. And, it is not necessarily because many believe Eshwarappa cannot emulate his caste man or fellow Kuruba (Shepherd community) Siddaramaiah in utilizing the platform to rise to a position in his own party.

The doubts are of a different nature because, as quite a few in the BJP believe, Siddaramaiah has more charisma than Eshwarappa among the socially and economically backward. More importantly, the backward communities are spread across the state, particularly in the rural sector. But, Eshwarappa’s move is not merely to keep a check on B S Yeddyurappa, state party president and former chief minister, whose propensity to run roughshod over anyone to achieve his political goals is well known.

It is obvious that Yeddyurappa’s promise to carry everyone in the party with him when he was appointed state party president, a few months ago, was merely mouthing of the wish of the party’s central leadership. No sooner did he get on with his job in characteristic hands-on style, Yeddyurappa went about getting his supporters positions which had been denied to them by his adversaries in the party. As expected, the party is back to its old formation. Yeddyurappa versus all other leaders in the party.

Without doubt, Eshwarappa’s toes have faced the pressure of Yeddyurappa weight in his home district of Shivamogga. So, when Eshwarappa initially expressed his thoughts about setting up of the brigade named after Sangolli Rayanna, the 18th century Army commander of Rani Chennamma of Kittur, Yeddyurappa did not hesitate to make his stand public. He made the point that leaders should promote only the party and its forum and not any other platform. Yeddyurappa does not want a platform for the backward classes for different reasons.

Yeddyurappa’s apprehensions, obviously, arise from the fact that he has worked hard, over the years, to virtually control the upper caste group of Lingayats, to which he belongs. The dominant community, largely in the central and northern districts of the state, has proved its loyalty to Yeddyurappa whether he led the BJP in 2008 or the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) in the 2013 assembly elections or the BJP, again, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The community has also backed the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe candidates in constituencies neighbouring reserved seats in a quid pro quo and helped Yeddyurappa break the Congress monopoly over the reserved seats.

Yeddyurappa’s strategy has been different. He would rather prefer the traditional practice of the dominant community influencing the voting behavior of the socially backward sections for various other reasons. In short, he does not want anything to disturb the Lingayat support base cultivated over the years because of an overt party policy, as opposed to a covert understanding, to include the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) into the party fold. But, Eshwarappa would not have indulged in the javelin throw without so much as even a nod from the coach sitting in Delhi.

It also makes sense for the brigade’s battle plan to be implemented because the party has been consistent in not just breaking but turning old electoral norms on their head. It has shown consistency in breaking into the support base various parties, not necessarily the Congress, have had on various caste groups. And, the BJP in Karnataka is known as an upper caste party. So, it is logical that the party has accepted the proposal from an aggrieved leader. And, the aggrieved leader could utilize the opportunity to curb the aggression of Yeddyurappa and, at the same time, step in as an instrument to expand the base of the party. It is not an easy assignment by any standard.

On one side there is Siddaramaiah and the rest of the largely backward classes leadership of the Congress. Siddaramaiah may, in the eyes of the urbanite, not be the best man for the job of chief ministership but in the rural sector he is still looked up to as a leader of the backward classes. The extent to which the AHINDA platform has frayed at the seams or whether it is deeper is difficult to say at this point of time. On the other side, Eshwarappa has to contend with that workaholic called Yeddyurappa who is bound to adopt a strategy to either appease Eshwarappa or cut him to size.

Then, Eshwarappa has another factor to contend with. Like Yeddyurappa has a serious anger management issue, Eshwarappa has, so to speak, a ''tongue management’’ issue. As is commonly said in BJP circles, he doesn’t know when he is putting his feet, not foot, into his mouth. So, it will not only be Yeddyurappa but also Siddaramaiah who will keep a close watch on Eshwarappa so they can flap their ears like the elephant does when excited. 2018 may be two years away but the situation is not easy for either of them.

Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.


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