BJP meltdown?

On the cusp of New Year


What might be Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa’s New Year resolution? A few things have moved into focus even in the unclear air of Bangalore. One: whatever the resolution, it will not matter much. Two: behind the false show of unity, the rebels are plotting to ease Yeddyurappa out. Three: even so, Yeddyurappa’s greatest strength is the division among his enemies.

The chief minister still has great strengths. One of them is almost superhuman sticking power. He may look and sound defeated, but given the vast pressure he is under after the latest bout of dissidence, it is quite remarkable that he not only still discharges his official duties, he does it with at least an appearance of zest.

His even bigger strength is the division and uncertainty among those who want him out. A cabinet member, generally on Yeddyurappa’s side, puts this well. There are, he says, two logical positions. The first is that Yeddyurappa, for all his faults, is still the best leader. The second is that Yeddyurappa is not up to it, and must go. What’s not logical is to call for a public revolt right now, when the state is in turmoil after the worst floods and drought. That would give any future leader a government in crisis. It would be messy.

So what’s the answer then? In essence, that Yeddyurappa should be allowed the next budget season, his third since becoming the chief minister, to calm the economic storm and show if he has changed. That’s also what Yeddyurappa asked for when the BJP’s central leadership stepped in and brokered a tenuous truce.

Coming back to the new year resolutions that might be essential for the chief minister to not only make but also keep, let’s analyse how the BJP’s first government in the south has fared so far. With just the last quarter of its second financial year remaining, it also marks the near end of the government’s second year in office. In effect, nearly half of its five-year elective term is over. And all this time has been frittered away with very little development to show or write home about.

The BJP started off on a distasteful note by launching Operation Lotus to poach opposition MLAs on the pretext of improving its own strength to provide a stable government. But, when it went overboard, BJP men themselves felt threatened and cried a halt to it. Yeddyurappa had no choice but to acquiesce.

Then came the sporadic bouts of rebellion, first by cabinet minister K S Eshwarappa and then by the Bellary Reddy brothers cum ministers, with the chief minister each time buying peace by bartering the state’s interest. If he posted officers of Reddys’ choice one time, he transferred out the officials disliked by them the next time. Even when the Centre and the Andhra Pradesh governments backed a CBI inquiry into Reddys’ illegal mining business to rein in the brothers, Yeddyurappa backed out. What is more, he even abdicated his right to have the officer of his choice at the helm of his secretariat.

Then came various elections, which took up some more time of the government. When the worst floods coupled with a crippling drought hit the state, the government wasted even that one big opportunity to serve its mandate by mixing crass politics with critical relief work. The rural development minister was jettisoned at this crucial juncture to humour the dissenting lot. And the chief minister shed tears to show how defenceless he was.

Renukacharya episode

Capping this sordid drama was the recent induction of sex scandal-tainted Honnali MLA M P Renukacharya, who had led a group of dissidents against the CM until recently, into the ministry and entrusting him the important excise portfolio. At least 17 BJP city MLAs stayed away from the swearing-in ceremony in protest.

The other bad news for the BJP was the Congress-JD(S) tie up winning 15 of the 25 legislative Council seats in the recent election. Though the BJP tally went up by six seats, the combined opposition success is not a happy signal with many BJP rebels rearing to join the opposite ranks.

So, how does one stem the rot? Instead of calculating who will replace Yeddyurappa, and when, or elbowing one another, ministers should be asking themselves why they are not defending the government as a whole. There has been little plain speaking and a lot of shadow boxing. The curse of pseudo-politics is that everything, good and bad is loaded on to one person, while the rest of the government act like commentators, not the players they really are. Whether or not BJP comes to power in the next election, there’s a good three years and more still to go, and a lot of governing to do.

In any event, the sensible thing for BJP is to stop this public feuding. The dignified thing for Yeddyurappa to do is to refocus on the issues that matter to people, confront the problems wrought by floods and drought. He has been indecisive, but a display of grit and stoicism would remind people why they backed this complex, struggling man.

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