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Scandals, ‘vested interests’: How BJP’s awkward squad could trip up party in Karnataka poll race

Bommai government faces obstacles from within BJP’s ranks in Karnataka, with some leaders alleging corruption, contradicting the party line, and making embarrassing statements.

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Bengaluru: The Basavaraj Bommai-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dispensation in Karnataka faces as many — if not more — obstacles from within its own ranks as it does from the opposition, with its elected representatives disparaging the state government through their statements and actions. This, political analysts say, could dent the party’s prospects in the upcoming Karnataka assembly elections, scheduled to be held before May this year.

The statements and actions in question include levelling allegations of corruption, sidelining the core BJP ideology, making imprudent predictions about poll outcomes, and embarrassing the party in the process.

“As much as they are in the BJP, they are not in the ministry (cabinet). Now these vested interests of individual requirements are almost stomping on or usurping the approach of the BJP itself,” Vishwas Shetty, a Bengaluru-based political analyst, said to ThePrint.

With no indication yet on whether the BJP will return to power, Bommai finds himself at the mercy of his party’s central leadership to shoulder the elections to mitigate the lack of development or welfare schemes despite him having occupied the top office for nearly two years.

There has been silence from the BJP top brass on the comments made by dissenting leaders against their own party’s government.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest troublemakers for CM Bommai.

Also read: How BJP’s Bommai gamble threatens to backfire in Karnataka — caste anger, corruption, ‘no control’

Basanagouda R. Patil (Yatnal)

Yatnal has been a vocal critic of leaders like former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa and Bommai, among others. Last year he had said that he was ‘offered’ the chief minister’s chair for Rs 2,500 crore, boasted that the Panchamasali Lingayat community, traditionally BJP voters, did not support Bommai in the 2021 bypolls in Hanagal, and even went as far as to call the industries minister Murugesh Nirani a “pimp” in a statement earlier this month.

A former Union minister and legislator from Bijapur city in northern Karnataka, Yatnal has made personal attacks on Yediyurappa and his family, questioned Bommai on the floor of the House, and is part of the Panchamasali reservation agitation. One of the leaders spearheading this movement has even threatened to “campaign against the BJP” if their demands are not met before the elections.

Gali Janardhana Reddy

A former BJP legislator and an accused in an iron ore mining scam, Reddy wields considerable influence in Ballari and neighbouring districts. End of last year, he floated a new political party — Kalyana Rajya Pragathi Paksha — and decided to contest from Koppal district that borders Ballari.

Reddy still wields influence over some districts in the Kalyana-Karnataka region. Though he has said that his two brothers — Somashekar Reddy and Karunakar Reddy — and close aide, B. Sriramulu, will not leave the BJP, the party is worried about his new party and his decision to contest, said multiple sources who spoke to ThePrint.

In 2018, he had even targeted the national leadership of the party, alleging that his home was raided after the 2018 assembly elections in which he had worked towards the victory of Sriramulu in Molakalmuru.

Jarkiholi brothers

The Jarkiholi brothers run the roost in Belagavi and have been a constant source of pain for the BJP. Of the five brothers, four are in active politics and are known to put family interests over the party.

Ramesh Jarkiholi, the former minister who was forced to step down over his alleged involvement in a ‘sex-for-job’ scandal in March 2021, has since tried to lobby his way back into the cabinet. He promised to give Rs 6,000 to each voter in the upcoming elections and also said that the BJP will form the government whether it has a majority on its own or not, likely referring to ‘Operation Kamala’ —  which was first experimented with in 2008 and then again in 2019, when Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JDS) MLAs had switched over to the BJP, toppling the then Congress-JDS coalition government.

Satish Jarkiholi, a former minister and working president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC), nearly defeated the BJP candidate, Mangala Angadi, in the May 2021 bypolls for the Lok Sabha with the active support of his brothers, while Lakhan Jarkiholi successfully contested as an independent in the December 2021 MLC polls, defeating the BJP’s Mahantesh Kavatagimath.

K.S. Eshwarappa

A former minister and one of the seniormost BJP leaders in the state, Eshwarappa was forced to step down from the cabinet last year after being named directly by a private contractor, who died by suicide, as an accused in a case of harassment for bribe.

He was also considered directly responsible for stoking communal tensions in Shivamogga last year when he led the funeral procession of Harsha Jingade, a Bajrang Dal worker, who was killed near his home.

Eshwarappa had, in May last year, said that the saffron flag (bhagwa dhwaj) will replace the tricolour in the future as well. He has also said that Christians and Muslims will have to someday associate with the RSS, the ideological parent of the BJP.

His own party distanced itself from the leader when he said that no Muslims will be given a ticket in 2023, contradicting the party’s minority outreach narrative to help win a majority on its own in the upcoming polls.

Also read: Karnataka Congress’s women leaders are ‘invisible’. 0 MLCs, 6 MLAs & none in key party posts

B.S. Yediyurappa

Arguably the biggest leader of the BJP in Karnataka, the party is grappling to find the best way to deal with the 79-year-old whom they can neither ignore nor entertain.

Yediyurappa is key to winning the support of the Lingayat community who do not see Bommai as their representative.

With Bommai not living up to expectations, the party had to bring back Yediyurappa into the parliamentary board. Political commentators, however, say Yediyurappa is a “misfit” within the BJP’s Hindutva push in Karnataka as the Lingayat leader has followed a slightly more inclusive and caste-based approach in his politics.

One of his sons is the sitting MP from Shivamogga and Yediyurappa has offered to give up his seat (Shikaripura) to his other son, B.Y. Vijayendra, who is also the state BJP vice-president.

B.Y. Vijayendra

Known to be a shrewd politician, Vijayendra is a controversial figure. His father Yediyurappa is trying to secure an assembly ticket for him and possibly a spot in the state government at the earliest.

However, it was under Vijayendra’s guidance that the BJP registered its first-ever victories in KR Pete municipality in Mandya district and Sira taluk in Tumakuru district.

The party has so far denied him an MLC ticket and several ministers in the government have earlier written letters anonymously, blaming him for all things wrong with the Yediyurappa government.

Several within the party have told ThePrint that corruption allegations against Vijayendra and his excessive interference in day-to-day administration irked several leaders who then worked behind then CM Yediyurappa’s back, seeking his son’s ouster.

Vijayendra was also believed to be running a parallel government under the aegis of his chief minister father and continues to be pushed into key roles under Bommai.

A.H. Vishwanath

The former state president of the JDS who defected to the BJP in 2019, Vishwanath has been a vocal critic of his own government on several occasions.

He has opposed the anti-conversion law and the religious politics practiced by the BJP, and held press conferences to chide his own government.

Last Friday he met state Congress president, D.K. Shivakumar, and national general secretary, Randeep Singh Surjewala.

Nalinkumar Kateel

State BJP president Kateel has not been the authoritative figure needed to shoulder the responsibility to unite all warring leaders of local units, political observers and a section of party workers told ThePrint.

Kateel’s speech to his party workers that they should not discuss small issues like potholes and roads and instead talk of love jihad has made it harder for the Bommai government to defend his comments.

He is also known to be a loyalist of B.L. Santhosh, BJP’s general secretary (organisation) who takes his cue from the party’s central leadership — leaving Bommai out of the loop — and has so far been unable to contain leaders who have made statements against the party and government.

C.P Yogeeshwara

A relatively new entrant to the BJP, Yogeshwar has been bad-mouthing the party leadership — especially Vijayendra — for interfering in matters related to Ramanagara district and Channapatna city. Yogeeshwara is a sitting BJP MLC from Channapatna.

He has in the past alleged that some of his own party members work in coalition with the Opposition in these parts. When he was made minister in Yediyurappa’s government, he had reportedly made trips to Delhi to complain about Vijayendra’s interference in the district and was seen lobbying against the chief minister.

Abhay Patil 

The three-term legislator from Belagavi is relatively unknown but has stirred the hornet’s nest in the past, asking for a survey of mosques, and whether Belagavi really belongs to Karnataka as the entire region is underdeveloped and the government continues to turn a blind eye on the northern districts.

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also read: With Bommai on ropes, Yediyurappa is BJP’s brahmastra in Karnataka. But he drives hard bargain


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