Siddaramaiah, BSY remain as brand mascots for 2018 polls

Siddaramaiah, BSY remain as brand mascots for 2018 polls

It is one person-centric politics in Karnataka. The Congress won the two bypolls recently in the state. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who led the campaign from the front, has naturally emerged as the undisputed leader in his party, for now. The BJP lost the polls. But B S Yeddyurappa remains as the top man to lead the party in the 2018 assembly elections. In case of the JD (S), it is the Gowda clan-centric. Whether the party does well or crawls towards oblivion, it remains as the party of H D Deve Gowda & Sons.  

But this is not a new trend in Karnataka or elsewhere. But then why do leaders talk about collective leadership or internal democracy in the party? Since the time the bypoll results of Gundlupet and Nanjungud brought smiles on the face of Siddarmaiah, he has been giving bold but varied statements. First he said he has decided to reconsider his decision not to contest the next polls. He would like to remain in electoral politics to thwart the BJP in achieving its Mission 150. Later he said the party would face the polls in his leadership.  He also mentioned that all prime decisions would be left to the party high command. Finally he spoke his mind – he would be the next chief minister when his party retains power.

During his visit to Karnataka, AICC general secretary and in-charge of Karnataka, Digvijaya Singh declared that the next elections would be fought under the leadership of Siddaramaiah. But he said the MLAs would decide who should be the chief minister, at the Congress Legislature Party meeting.  But in a way, Siddarmaiah has countered him by saying that he would be the next CM.

 Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President and Home Minister G Parameshwara  has often said that it is going to be collective leadership when it comes to facing the next polls.

There may not be a unanimous voice or collective thinking among the top Congress leaders when it comes to who should be the face of poll campaign or as a matter of fact, who should be the CLP leader in case the Congress retains power. But they are unanimous when they say ‘secular forces’ should come together to thwart the BJP coming to power again in Karnataka. They obviously mean that the Congress is ready to join hands with the JD(S) to stop the BJP to march into Vidhana Soudha.  Of course, any ‘understanding’ between the two self claimed secular parties would be after the polls.

 The statements and claims made by Siddaramaiah so far is not been challenged or countered by his party colleagues. The scenario may not change at least till the elections are over. He is also ensuring that the next KPCC president would be his man.  He gave an impression that he was batting for Minister M B Patil to occupy the seat in case the high command finally decides to move out Parameshwara.

 It is to be seen whether Siddaramaiah would have a Lingayat leader such as Patil, who has direct links with the high command, as the party president in an election year. Having a timid man in the post would only give more freedom for Siddaramaiah to run the show as he wishes.  For the Congress, the one-man show is acceptable because Siddaramaiah has been able to consolidate his image as OBC/Ahinda leader. On top of it, there is bankruptcy of leadership at the high command level to ideate and strategize.  

In case of the BJP, Yeddyurappa has not been the success mascot in the bypolls. He is a Lingayat strongman who has no match in the state. But he could not do miracles in Gundlupet and Nanjungud where there is considerable Lingayat voting population. His experiment of projecting Lingayat-Dalit combination leadership did not work. The results only showed that the BJP is yet to make inroads in the old Mysuru region.

Then comes the question - just because the results went in favour of the ruling party, should the BJP be disheartened with the leadership of Yeddyurappa? Sure, there would be no knee-jerk reaction from the central leaders of the party.  

Many senior leaders in the BJP have problems with Yeddyurappa as he allows only members of his coterie to run along with him. He has fallen apart with many leaders. The central leaders are well aware of the shortcomings of Yeddyurappa.  The dent he caused for his image as well as the BJP when he was the chief minister is not yet forgotten.

Seniors in the party also did not approve of Yeddyurappa campaigning for nearly 3 weeks in Nanjungud and Gundlupet. This, according to them, resulted in too much identification of himself with his caste people. There was no need to attach so much significance to the bypolls as voters usually go with a ruling party in bypolls, was one of the observations made by the central leaders at the national executive meeting held recently at Bhubaneswar.  Probably, they are right going by the results.

But still Yeddyurappa is running the show and he may continue unless the party dares to experiment which is highly unlikely.  He is backed by dominating caste, workaholic and ‘resourceful.’  According to the party insiders the strategies for the general elections would be worked out by Party National President Amith Shah and others. The poll related plans and work would get decentralized.  At the most Yeddyurappa  may have a say in selection of about 80-100 candidates of the total 224.  All the 44 sitting BJP MLAs are bound to be candidates again. Nearly 70 BJP candidates, who lost the poll battle with a narrow margin of about 5,000 or less in 2013, are going to be preferred next time too.

In the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, many factors count including the image of Narendra Modi and influence of local Sangh leaders, to win. So, as in the past, Yeddyurappa would not have much work here. There is no one single leader in North Karnataka who has sway over all the 12 districts. But Yeddyurappa has considerable influence over the Mumbai-Karnataka region which roughly has about 72 assembly seats, and in two districts of the Hyderabad-Karnataka region comprising 12 assembly seats.  In selection of candidates to Bengaluru urban, it will be more of a show by Union Minister Ananth Kumar.

With all these facts, if still there is one leader in the BJP who can criss-cross the North Karnataka and parts of the South Karnataka to get connected to people, it is Yeddyurappa.  No other leader has emerged in the party who can outsmart him. But this does not mean there would be no dark horse for the CM post in case the BJP would have to hold the reins of administration in Karnataka. The names of at least 3 second line leaders are making rounds because of their clean image though they are not powerful figures.

Democracy has reduced to a number game. And in this game, whichever politician can pull more numbers to his side, he becomes the leader. But sometimes, other reasons and logic too work.

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