Voices Thursday, June 05, 2014 - 05:30
By Naveen Soorinje The News Minute| March 13, 2014| 1.00 PM The BJP is aiming to win 13 to 15 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka, their hopes bolstered by the return of B S Yeddyurappa. So why did the Lingayat strongman return to the BJP’s fold? What does his comeback mean? An analysis. The return of B S Yeddyurappa to the Bharatiya Janata Party was not surprising. On December 25, 2012, Baba Ramdev addressed a press meet in Karnataka and said: “Yeddyurappa must return to the BJP. The party’s leaders must make efforts for this to happen.” Since this statement was made, several seers in Karnataka including the Pejavar seer Shri Vishweshwa Thirtha Swami began to make similar statements and demand that the senior leaders of the party strive to bring Yeddyurappa back to the BJP. Of course the seers wanted the benevolent Yeddyurappa back. For the duration of Yeddyurappa’s tenure as Chief Minister, not only did various Hindu and Veerashaiva Mutts receive financial grants, but the seers of these Mutts obtained a prestigious position in society by association with a chief minister in a democratic set up. However, the seers did not endorse Yeddyurappa merely for his financial assistance. Even though Yeddyurappa belongs to the Veerashaiva community, he practices all the superstitions of the Hindu religion with great faith. In him, the seers found the ambassador who would protect the ideas they espouse. No other BJP leader is as good an ambassador of ritual, spells, gods, poojas , and homas as Yeddyurappa is. BJP leaders have witnessed an Assembly election without Yeddyurappa and do not want to risk repeating the same mistakes in the Lok Sabha polls. Yeddyurappa's influence in North Karnataka would have meant a split of votes for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. The friction between Yeddyurappa and others in BJP had intensified so much that were it not for the general elections, Yeddyurappa would have had to remain with the Karnataka Janata Party for a lot longer. It is the concern for votes that resulted in BJP getting Yeddyurappa back. The party now hopes that people in Northern Karnataka who stood behind Yeddyurappa when he ended his 40-year association with the BJP-Jan Sangh to start the KJP, will now return to the BJP's fold. Yeddyurappa is also a master negotiator. When the mid-term elections were held in 2008, the Yeddyurappa-led BJP had won a total of 110 seats. Of the 90 seats in north Karnataka, BJP had won 55. Subsequently, Yeddyurappa convinced three Janata Dal (Secular) and one Congress MLA from this region to resign; and made three of them contest elections again from this region on a BJP ticket and got the mandate of the people. If the BJP needs to crunch numbers at a later stage, they hope Yeddyurappa's skills of negotiation will help.During his return, Yeddyurappa made it clear that he wanted to see Gujrat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as PM. The two leaders have lot of similarities. Both leaders grew in the shadow of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar and today, have become more powerful than the party. Even though the party decided to send him to campaign for elections to Uttar Pradesh, Modi declined. He struck hard at the BJP high command for giving more importance to his one-time opponent Sanjay Joshi. Over the years, Modi has built the Gujarat BJP as though it is not a part of the national party at all. Yeddyurappa has implemented the Gujarat model in Karnataka. Yeddyurappa’s stature within Karnataka is such that it is impossible to imagine a BJP without him. If you look at the history of political parties, none of this is new. National parties, which have to espouse broad-based positions due to nationalistic compulsions, often find themselves at the mercy of regional leaders. At one stage, this even becomes inevitable. Often, such leaders enhance the stature of the party, and similarly, they cause embarrassment as well. This is not limited to just one party. The recent elections in Manipur are a case in point. Without an Ibobi Singh, it would have been impossible for the Congress to win three consecutive elections. That is the power of Ibobi Singh. If in future Ibobi Singh revolts against the Congress, the party will be decimated because of a lack of alternative leadership. The BJP faces the same problem in Karnataka. If Yeddyurappa leaves, there is no leader who can pull crowds, nor is there a leader with such a strong backing of caste (Lingayat community). The BJP has not even thought of developing alternative leadership. The Congress has taken such a beating many times. An example of this, is the situation in Andhra Pradesh. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy grew so high in stature in Andhra Pradesh, that he eclipsed the Congress. The people equated YSR with the Congress, and Sonia’s magic did not work there. Only when he died in a helicopter crash did the Congress realise that they did not have a single good leader in the state. Even though three years have passed since, the Congress has not been able to bounce back from that situation. The question as to who will lead the Congress forward in Andhra Pradesh remains unanswered. The same kind of vacuum was in the BJP. No national leader of the BJP has the confidence to say: “If Yeddyurappa leaves then let him leave.” This is not because Yeddyurappa has support of many MLAs, but fact that Yeddyurappa has the power to draw votes, the political acumen, and most important of all, it knows that he can bring the BJP back to power. Whether or not Yeddyurappa can achieve all this in the next elections is uncertain, but one thing is clear: no one else is capable of achieving it. Naveen Soorinje is a senior political correspondent at BTV, yet-to-be launched Kannada news channel. (This is a translated version, originally written in Kannada) The opinions expressed in this articles are the personal opinions of the author. The News Minute is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information in this article. The information, facts or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of The News Minute and The News Minute does not assume any liability on the same.