BJP's Kushwaha gamble adds to its Karnataka mess

BJP's Kushwaha gamble adds to its Karnataka mess

The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) northern gamble of inducting the tainted Babu Singh Kushwaha as part of a grand plan to recapture power in Uttar Pradesh is adding to the party's woes in Karnataka, its gateway to southern India.

Scandals that have rocked the BJP rule in Karnataka since it came to power for the first time in the state in May 2008 might not have influenced the Uttar Pradesh voters against it.

However, in its eagerness to re-establish its hold on the crucial northern state which sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha, the BJP seems to be unwittingly proving that its sights are limited to northern India and the southern foray is merely a footnote.

The party has obviously not given any thought to the repercussion that taking in Kushwaha will have on its deeply divided Karnataka unit which already faces a possible split if tainted former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa is not placated in the near future.

Forced to quit July 31 over corruption charges Yeddyurappa, the BJP's first chief minister in southern India, has been sending strong signals of carving out his own way unless he is reinstated in the post or made the state unit president or officially declared the party's supreme leader in the state.

The Kushwaha entry to the party is expected to further embolden Yeddyurappa and his supporters, some of whom have already become dismissive of the BJP central leadership.

A legislator from Tumkur, about 70 km north of Bangalore, B. Suresh Gowda has twice ticked off the party central leaders in three days, once after Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda told him to behave.

"It is meaningless to sit in Delhi and talk. Let them come here and see the support we enjoy," he said Wednesday only to be pulled up by the chief minister the next day.

"Sadananda Gowda should remember it was Yeddyurappa who made him chief minister and not the BJP high command," Suresh Gowda thundered Friday.

Apart from tying itself in knots in defending the induction of Kushwaha, the BJP central leadership may find all its flanks opened for attack if it gives in to any of the Yeddyurappa demands.

The dissidents in Karnataka are not even willing to allow the party leadership to focus its energy and time on the Uttar Pradesh elections. They want Yeddyurappa to be given what he is demanding before Jan 15.

As campaigning reaches its peak in the northern state, back in Karnataka dissidents will be flexing their muscles with public meetings to be addressed by Yeddyurappa to show the support they enjoy.

The BJP will have to wait till March first week to know whether the Kushwaha bet will bring in the OBC (other backward classes) vote to it in Uttar Pradesh. But it is already getting the taste of what is likely to happen in Karnataka in the coming days.

Three ministers - Shobha Karandlaje, R. Ashoka and Murugesh Nirani - have been to New Delhi in the last six days on official work and utilised the opportunity to brief BJP president Nitin Gadkari on the state of affairs in the Karnataka unit. Karandlaje and Nirani are staunch loyalists of Yeddyurappa and want him back as chief minister.

The corruption scandals and dissidence have had a telling effect on governance in the state with Sadananda Gowda acknowledging that overall only around 50 percent of the targets set for the 2011-12 financial year (April 1 to March 31) have been met.

A glaring example of the administration being in doldrums is that the state has spent just Rs.250 crore out of around Rs.1,000 crore sanctioned for ensuring drinking water supply in rural areas.

There will be a mad rush now by all departments to spend the money, particularly the amount from the central government, before March 31.

Otherwise the state will not only have a lot of explanation to give for not utilising the money but may also face a cut from the central kitty for the next financial year, 2012-13.

The state of affairs in the ruling BJP does not give any hope that this year will be any better for Karnataka than the year gone by and the party may end up not gaining Uttar Pradesh as well as seeing its gateway to the south slipping away from its hold.

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