Season for shadow-boxing


The so-called ‘voices of dissent’ against the leadership of BJP's Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa in Karnataka, has been growing stronger in New Delhi, which made the party high command rush senior leader Arun Jaitley to Bangalore to troubleshoot. The master strategist is no doubt one of the best the BJP has but represents the group opposed to BJP President Rajnath Singh, the chief patron of Yeddyurappa in the party hierarchy.

Hence, Jaitley did all the actions of firefighting - met with the chief minister, other leaders, ministers and legislators - and left without further ado. The partymen who met the central observer were described as ‘invitees’ and consisted mostly of ‘friends’ and supporters of the chief minister, with just a few disgruntled partymen like minister K S Eshwarappa, legislators Belur Gopalakrishna and M P Renukacharya thrown in.

The congenital troublemakers, or those who have been waving the banner of revolt from the time the Yeddyurappa government took birth a year ago, failed to meet Jaitley. Prominent among the absentees were the Reddy siblings cum ministers from Bellary and their coterie of ministers and legislators, whose exact number is hard to guess as it keeps changing.

How fruitful was Jaitley’s troubleshooting mission is anybody’s guess. There is no need for any official word on that as both Yeddyurappa and the Reddy brothers issued their respective denials of any major differences between them. What is dubious about the denials is that they are seldom common and have turned into virtually daily bulletins. So, the moot point is whether there is true dissent against the chief minister or is it the ruling BJP’s drift, coasted by extraneous forces? Take the instance of minister Eshwarappa’s outburst. He thrashed out his differences with the chief minister in the open. He was opposed to fielding his (Yeddyurappa’s) son B Y Raghavendra in the recent Lok Sabha election from Shimoga, interference in his energy portfolio and malpractises in the election.

Understandably, Eshwarappa, the party’s lone Kuruba leader in the Assembly, did not relish the growth of the son along with the chief minister-father, as an alternative power centre in his home turf of Shimoga. Though all differences may not get ironed out in one go, at least there will be less friction after the unburdening act.

The case of minister Shobha Karandlaje, the lone woman in Yeddyurappa’s cabinet, is no different. Partymen rebelled against her growing clout and some of her powers stand reduced, including briefing the media on decisions taken at cabinet meetings, a privilege usually vested with a senior minister. There ends the matter, at least for now.

One of the Bellary Reddy brothers, Somashekar Reddy, the MLA from Bellary city, set a deadline for the chief minister to meet his monetary demands to develop his constituency. It was met even before the deadline could end.

The only tale of political intrigue is the other two Reddy brothers, Janardhana Reddy and Karunakar Reddy, both ministers, who have been merely shadow-boxing and later claiming that they remain loyal to the chief minister. The Reddys were the first to reach Delhi recently, when the new UPA ministry was sworn in, to greet all the ministers. Indeed, they need Delhi’s blessings more than Yeddyurappa’s to keep their mining licences alive or get reprieve from the charges of illegal mining in Karnataka territory by their firm operating from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

So, is the Congress behind the Reddy brothers’ supposed dissent? Is the Congress mulling a counter to BJP’s poaching game nicknamed Operation Kamala? If yes, will the Reddys be able to muster the required numbers to break away from the BJP and join hands with the Congress? It will, no doubt, be difficult for them to replicate Operation Kamala as their supporting MLAs are mostly first-timers and may not be willing to hazard resigning their Assembly seats. The proximity of the Reddys to some Congress leaders such as Siddaramaiah, as both have a common enemy in JD(S) leader H D Deve Gowda, is well known. Most of the MLAs poached by the Reddys from the Congress and the JD(S) through Operation Kamala, were from the ‘Ahinda’ camp, a Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits - the grouping backed by Siddaramaiah for long.
Given the Congress may not be interested in immediately destabilising the BJP-led state government since it is flush with its success in the Lok Sabha polls. But why are the chief minister and BJP leaders playing it safe against the Reddy brothers and not calling a halt to their tantrums. Why does not Yeddyurappa ask the Reddy ministers to fall in line when they hold private meetings but absent from crucial cabinet and review meetings pertaining to their departments; why does the chief minister willingly excuse their absence but instruct officials to be on their toes 24/7 and keep their mobile phones on through the night; will Jaitley’s prescription of discipline for the party apply to the Reddy brothers as well?

These are questions begging for answers. The BJP leadership can defer its reaction only for the time being. But it will have to find a solution before the upcoming local body elections. The sooner it happens, the better it will be for the party.

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