It is not so much a win for the BJP as the personality of the Karnataka CM, who worked assiduously for the bypolls
Plagued by alliance troubles of late, with junior partners demanding their pound of flesh and alleging high-handedness, and crossover candidates failing to deliver, the BJP got a breather in the Karnataka bypolls. Of the 13 Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) turncoats, who were disqualified from the Assembly and recontested on BJP tickets, 11 won their seats. So now the BS Yediyurappa Government, which was antsy about a slender margin with 106 MLAs, has a bonafide 118 legislators. At least Operation Lotus in Karnataka has not been a total failure. The BJP rewarded 13 rebels with tickets and let them contest from the same seats which they had resigned from. Clearly, this proves that the legislators have higher traction than the party they represent. MLAs like Jarkiholi Ramesh Laxmanrao, who has been winning the Gokak Assembly seat since 2008 on a Congress ticket, has won it as a BJP candidate post-defection. Only two rebels lost. So the BJP’s promise of ministership being conditional on a win has worked. The results have undoubtedly humbled both the Congress and the JD-S. While the JD-S hasn’t won any seat, the dismal Congress show — it just won two seats — means that the party hasn’t invested its energies in even resurrecting its independent ground, considering it had shed the baggage of an inept Kumaraswamy Government. Former Chief Minister and senior leader Siddaramaiah hasn’t been able to gather the forces he once had. Neither could DK Shivakumar, the high command’s pointsperson, encash his incarceration by the probe agencies and play the victim card effectively enough. This pallid show was not lost on the BJP with many of its leaders claiming that people had rejected the Congress for its opportunistic allies that didn’t have the mandate, hinting that it would be caught out in Maharashtra too. Without strong allies and plagued by infighting, the Congress seems reluctant to even try a bit on its own. It ought to have rescued itself by playing the electoral game seriously. Compare this to Yediyurappa, who campaigned hard for the byelections, treating them as a matter of his life and death. As for the rapidly eroding JD-S, it may well end up bartering itself away to the BJP.
This win, however, is not of the central BJP but of Yediyurappa, who has consistently held ground. First, he avenged and exposed the hypocrisy of the JD-S. Second, by being the tallest Lingayat leader of consequence and still being the charioteer of BJP’s fortunes in the South, he has established his primacy and worth in a party that had shunned him after he was indicted in a corruption case. Despite the central leadership’s discomfort over his deep connections with the mining mafia, Yediyurappa has sealed his position and has made himself indispensable. At 76, he has anyway forced the party to drop the superannuation limit of 75 years in his case. It also means that he will have a say in the State, where as “Raithara Bandhu”, he can help in pushing pro-farmer policies and initiatives, something the BJP needs to desperately drive home in a failing economy. He had advocated separate agriculture budgets during his earlier stint at chief ministership and has already prioritised agriculture and development as his key focus areas. Be that as it may, it is Yediyurappa’s political journey and ego that have been set on course. And unable to live the chief ministerial dream on two previous occasions, he is hoping to break the jinx. Hopefully, the trade winds of the bypolls will ensure that he has a full run. Clearly, the BJP would do well to give up its unitary approach and invest in raising federal leaders. Of course, questions remain about the collapse of morality in public life, one where the disqualified MLAs were allowed to recontest by the top court. The Constitution Review Commission of 2002 suggested that defectors be barred from holding public office with civil activists suggesting that they be banned for five years in the least. Some radical activists had even suggested the Right to recall legislators. Otherwise, transactional politics will continue to cost democracy.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)