Bengaluru: Union Home Minister and BJP chief Amit Shah is not a very popular man in his party’s Karnataka unit these past few days.
He made Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa wait for days before allowing him to expand his state Cabinet, and then again delayed giving him the go-ahead to allocate portfolios a full month after he assumed office.
Not just that, he ordered the chief minister to appoint three deputies much against his will, and sending senior party leaders into a sulk.
As if the mess created by the Cabinet formation and portfolio allocation was not enough, the high command sprang a big surprise by anointing a political lightweight, Nalin Kumar Kateel, MP from Mangalore, as the state BJP president.
On Tuesday, when Kateel took over his new charge, at least two senior leaders, already unhappy with their portfolios, made themselves conspicuous by their absence.
Around the time Kateel took charge in Bengaluru, party leader and Karnataka minister B. Sriramulu’s supporters in Koppal constituency hit the streets in protest setting fire to posters of Shah and B.L. Santhosh, the national general secretary (organisation) who the high command looked to for advice to choose the ministers and their portfolios.
Santhosh, a former RSS pracharak, and Yediyurappa are not known to share a good equation.
The protests against the “injustice” to the Valmiki community (a Scheduled Tribe) leader spread to Chitradurga and Ballari in the afternoon. Sriramulu was projected as a deputy chief ministerial candidate ahead of the May 2018 assembly elections.
Unhappiness in the ranks
Shah has clearly overplayed his hand if the reactions to the appointment of ministers and allocation of portfolios are any indication.
Neither Yediyurappa nor any of his senior colleagues are happy. A few juniors have been given weighty portfolios at the expense of veterans. Just a couple of hours after the portfolios were announced Monday, senior leader C.T. Ravi, who was given Tourism, told the media he would resign. It took a lengthy phone call from Santhosh Tuesday to bring him around.
But what has rankled many is the creation of three alternative power centres. The appointment of three deputy chief ministers — one of them lost the last assembly election and has the dubious reputation of having been caught on camera watching porn in the House — was resisted by Yediyurappa but he had no choice but to fall in line.
Other seniors like K.S. Eshwarappa, Sriramulu and R. Ashoka were hopeful of becoming deputy chief ministers but their claims were overlooked. Ashoka, a former deputy CM, is a Vokkaliga and a Bengaluru strongman. In his place, a two-time MLA C.N. Ashwathanarayana was given the post. Govind Karjol, a Dalit, and Laxman Savadi, now known for his viewing habits, are the other two deputy CMs.
“Where was the need for having three deputy CMs? If it was the idea of the high command, it was wrong. I oppose the decision,” said Chamarajanagar MP V. Srinivas Prasad in Mysuru.
Also read: In Karnataka, BJP & Congress fighting identical problems — dissent, ambition & rivalries
A rocky road ahead
It is not clear what the political calculations of the Shah-Santhosh combine are behind the recent moves in Karnataka but few will claim that they have generated positive vibes.
As it is, the Yediyurappa government was born in sin with the help of rebel MLAs of the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular). The unseemly spectacle of the dissent that has broken out after the Cabinet expansion will only further sully the party’s image.
Shah cannot be faulted if the party has a strategy in mind for a post-Yediyurappa situation. After all, he is past 75, the cut-off age in the party for individuals to hold public office. But it is not smart politics to have humiliated the man thus. He still has it in him to damage the BJP’s fortunes if he is forced to part ways with the party in the future.
Even if Yediyurappa is able to stifle the dissent in the party now, the next round of Cabinet expansion — there are still 18 slots to be filled — is bound to create more trouble. The rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs will also have to be accommodated if the Supreme Court sets aside their disqualification by the Speaker.
The party’s national leadership is not confident of the government lasting the remainder of the assembly’s term. But if it hopes to win the next elections by reducing Yediyurappa to a puppet and controlling things from Delhi, the results are unlikely to go the BJP’s way.
The Congress and JD(S) are watching the drama in the BJP with unrestrained glee and have told their cadres to start preparing for elections which they say could take place in about a year from now.
With an enervated Yediyurappa and a state unit riven by distrust and dissent, Shah will have to produce something extraordinary to win the popular mandate in the only state in the south where it has enjoyed power.
Also read: Why BJP leader who lost polls & was caught watching porn in House enters Karnataka cabinet
All MLA’s can be designated as Dy CM but without portfolios. Shah can act CM from Delhi. Strange that a party in opposition was once considered as disciplined, after tasting power is almost like Congress. If CM cannot have choice of his own team, what kind CM he would who will be threatened using enforcement agencies.
I am surprised at the audacity of the author to make a judgement call on Amit Shah’s callibre. What are the antecedents of author and why should I even remotely trust his analysis? How many elections has the author won for Any party?
All this ongoing nataka in Karnataka is based on the possibility that voters of Karnataka voted for Modi rather than for the BJP in the Parliamentary elections of May 2019 and a presumption that this will happen again in the assembly elections too.
Amit Shah is all powerful, BSY is nothing before Amit Shah, because Shah has CBI, ED, IB…you name it & Shah has every investigating agency under him apart from several Constitutional bodies. Shah will not worry about BSY’s ability to spoil the chances of winning assembly elections in Karnataka, if it is dissolved now, because Shah has control over the all-important CEC & EVM under his control.
So, the newly weakened, old by age, restless BSY can work against Shah at his own peril.
BSY is 76, if he still didn’t learn to delegate as a political animal and someone aiming to administer a state, then I think it is good that the high command has to step in to do it for him. As it is BSY is in violation of the 75 years limit, better get his act together and delegate and make some political proteges worth their salt. If BSY’s only protege is BY Raghavendra/Vijayendra then he hasn’t learned the RSS ways in his 55-odd years with the Sangh.
One does not understand the nitty gritty of politics, who is moving whose cheese, but if the BSY administration is seen as one of the ruling party’s important state governments, all the more in the hard to crack South, it is damaging the national brand. There is a wanton caprice to a spring high tide, it drowns all in its path. That was 23rd May. Then, slowly, people begin to make comparisons and judgments. In a second term, there will be less patience and forbearance for what CM BSY is offering Karnataka.
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