Frittering away a great mandate

Frittering away a great mandate

Flashback Y2K9

Frittering away a great mandate

The biggest lesson that Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa would have learnt from the roller-coaster ride he has had in 2009 is that you cannot have peace and stability of government merely with the help of numbers.

He used Operation Lotus and every other operation to add more bricks to his edifice and somehow attain majority, but by the end of the year, Yeddyurappa would have realised that a patch work with loose bricks will only destabilise the structure and not strengthen it.

Thumping majority

Look at the kind of goodwill the people of Karnataka showered on the BJP for little over a year after giving the party the reins of power in May, 2008: They elected defectors with a thumping majority, strengthened Yeddyurappa’s hands by sending 18 BJP MPs from the state and favoured the party even in byelections.

But, when the chief minister overplayed his hand and tried to impose more defectors in the form of V Somanna and C P Yogeshwar on the people, the electors defeated both of them, sending back the message that they should not be mistaken for lotus eaters.

In February, the BJP suddenly realised that apart from contesting and winning elections, it had been given a mandate to govern the state. As most newly appointed ministers were ill-equipped for the job, it organised a three-day orientation programme called Sahachintan Baithak at Suttur Mutt, Mysore.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who spoke at the Baithak advised  the ministers not to  waste their time  on ceremonies, but constantly review the works undertaken;  and push officials to deliver.

But his sermons apparently fell on deaf ears as within a couple of months, the ministers were at each others throats and calling the chief minister  names. Some of them openly quarrelled in front of Vidhana Soudha, showing the ugly face of the ruling party.

The Central leaders dispatched Arun Jaitley to broker peace and a temporary truce was called. Senior minister K S Eshwarappa who openly accused the chief minister of promoting his son and being dictatorial, later changed his tune in Delhi, calling Yeddyurappa the party’s undisputed leader.

By far the biggest thorns in Yeddyurappa’s flesh have been the infamous Bellary brothers, Janardhana Reddy and Karunakara Reddy. They and their supporters were made ministers as a reward for various services rendered, including engineering defections, but their never-ending demands have left the chief minister completely exasperated.

In an attempt to tame the Reddy brothers, Yeddyurappa wrote to the Centre in February, pointing to the allegations of some mining companies both in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh indulging in illegal mining activities taking advantage of the disputed border areas. Apprehending huge revenue loss to the state, the chief minister spoke of how the neighbouring state was not cooperating in taking up a joint survey of the disputed boundary line between the two states.

50 MLAs rebelled

That was the beginning of the war between the Reddy brothers and the chief minister. The resourceful Reddy brothers struck back later in the year by organising a virtual revolt against Yeddyurappa. When over 50 MLAs rebelled against him, the chief minister realised how unpopular he had become. He barely survived with the help of the central leaders of the party, sacrificing two of his favourites, Shobha Karandlaje and V P Baligar, in the bargain.

Yeddyurappa has now become so vulnerable that, in the changed circumstances, when the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh has turned the heat on the Reddy brothers mining empire and ordered a CBI inquiry into their companies activities, Yeddyurappa is busy giving a clean chit to those he accused of plundering the state!

Opposition ranks

In the Congress camp, though Siddaramaiah was finally rewarded with the post of leader of the opposition after Mallikarjun Kharge moved over the Centre, the party is yet to recover from its loss to the BJP in 2008. It remains a divided house and unable to convince the High Command that it can take on the BJP on its own.

So much so, in the recent biennial elections to the Legislative Council, the party High Command decidedto join hands with the JD(S) against the wishes of the local leaders. Though the Congress gained very little from the alliance, it helped in arresting the BJP’s advance, but more importantly, gave a lifeline to the JD(S) to remain relevant in state  politics.