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Karnataka's father-son politics and BJP's predicament

Bangalore, March 24, 2013 (IANS)

There's nothing novel about entire families being in politics in India; nor is it so uncommon for parents to belong to one party -- or different ones -- and children to take up leadership in yet another party.

However "family politics" has reached a new low in Karnataka; and ironically, the BJP, which claims to stand for "value-based politics", is a contributor to this trend.
Even though the party only came to power for the first time in a southern state in 2008, its leaders sow the seeds of dynasty, passing the privilege of political leadership down the family line.

The BJP central leadership seems to be aiding such a development by inaction.
Among the clans that have recently gained a foothold in politics in the state are those led by BJP's first chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and his staunch follower and former BJP minister C.M. Udasi.


Both leaders are now part of a new political outfit though their sons continue to be in BJP.  Yeddyurappa quit the BJP in November 2012 to head the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP).

Udasi, along with another minister, Shobha Karandlaje, and 10 BJP legislators followed Yeddyurappa in January and are now with the KJP.

However Yeddyurappa's son B.Y. Raghavendra and Udasi's son Shivakumar Udasi still remain BJP Lok Sabha members from Karnataka though they have openly helped their fathers in organising the KJP.

Raghavendra represents Shimoga Lok Sabha constituency, about 280 km from Bangalore, while Udasi junior represents Haveri, around 400 km from here.

Both are first-time Lok Sabha members. While Raghavendra has been vocal against the BJP, Udasi junior keeps a low public profile.

Although the state leadership of the BJP has recommended action against the sons, the central leadership is yet to act, and has not sought even an explanation of their conduct.  
The hands of the BJP state leadership are tied -- both sons are MPs, and any action against them will have to be taken by the party's central leadership.

Yeddyurappa and Udasi senior, meanwhile, would not want their sons to lose membership of the Lok Sabha; so the fathers have not asked their sons to quit the BJP.

The BJP in the state is also saddled with a brother-and-sister combine: J. Shantha is BJP Lok Sabha member from Bellary, about 300 km from Bangalore, while her brother B. Sriramulu, a loyalist of jailed mining baron G. Janardhana Reddy, was minister in the Yeddyurappa cabinet.

He quit the BJP last year and floated a party called BSR Congress. Shantha actively supports her brother's outfit and regularly slams the BJP while remaining a member of the party.

Sriramulu also has the open backing of one of the Reddy brothers, G. Somashekara Reddy, a BJP legislator from Bellary. He too has not faced any action from the party.
Father-son politics goes by the tired Kannada phrase, "thande-makkala paksha". The phenomenon is hardly a novel one for the state, and has been quite the norm for the state leadership of the Janata Dal-Secular.

The JD-S is headed by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda; one of his sons, H.D. Kumaraswamy, is the state president of the party, while another son, H.D. Revanna is leader of the party in the assembly.

Gowda and Kumaraswamy are Lok Sabha members. Kumaraswamy's wife Anita is a state assembly member.

The Congress, which is accused of "dynastic politics" at the national level, has its own brand of "family politics" in the state.

However, local Congress dynasties have not fared too well -- two prominent Congress figures in the state failed, in their first attempt to launch their sons.

Union Labour Minister Mallikharjun Kharge's son Priyank lost an assembly bypoll in 2009; former chief minister Dharam Singh's son Ajay Singh lost an assembly byelection in 2010.
With assembly elections set for May 5, there will be much to watch in Karnataka; here, there is no question, the personal is indeed political.

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