Bangalore, March 29 (IANS) Karnataka’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is at its wit’s end as it prepares for the May 5 assembly polls. The party does not seem to have a clue on how to shake off the KJP (Karnataka Janata Party) syndrome that threatens to shatter its hope of retaining power in the polls.
The BJP rightly diagnoses that the Congress is its main opponent across Karnataka with the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) posing a challenge to both the parties in some parts of the state.
The BJP’s actions however show that its main worry is the KJP, headed by the party’s former leader B.S. Yeddyurappa.
The KJP is unlikely to win a significant number of seats but has the potential to severely damage the BJP’s prospects in the polls to the 225-member assembly that is made up of 224 elected members and one nominated member.
The need for damage control has meant the BJP playing the waiting game to select its candidates as the party is not sure how many of its leaders would desert it to join the KJP.
So far Yeddyurappa, who quit the BJP in November last year, has managed to wean away three ministers and around 10 BJP legislators to his KJP.
At least three more ministers and several legislators are expected to quit the BJP soon and go along with Yeddyurappa as they do not have any hope of the party retaining power.
A few ministers and BJP legislators have also been trying for tickets from the Congress as they expect the party to wrest power from the BJP.
These developments have left the BJP in a fix – it knows the Congress is the main challenger but its focus is more on containing the damage from the KJP.
A fallout of this dilemma is manifold – from delayed decisions and belated acknowledgement that it tolerated corruption to increasing dependency on caste and regional equations to fight the poll.
After desperately trying to retain Yeddyurappa in the party, state BJP leaders are now going round telling the people that the party “has been cleansed” with “corrupt leaders” leaving it.
Yeddyurappa, the BJP’s first chief minister in the state, was forced out of office in July 2011 over mining bribery charges and is fighting a dozen cases of corruption and illegal land deals.
The BJP’s “we are now clean” talk, however, carries little weight as several ministers, including two deputy chief ministers K.S. Eshwarappa and R. Ashoka, are also fighting corruption cases.
The party had to suffer the embarrassment of police raiding Eshwarappa’s residences in Bangalore and his home town Shimoga a few months back in search of evidence that he had amassed huge property.
Eshwarappa was then holding the twin positions of state BJP president and deputy chief minister.
He quit the party post March 7 but his successor Pralhad Joshi, a Lok Sabha member from Dharwad, about 400 km north of Bangalore, was appointed only on March 21.
With Chief Ninister Jagadish Shettar also hailing from Dharwad, the BJP apparently believes the importance it has given to north Karnataka would fetch it dividends in the May polls.
The party had won 55 of the 90 assembly seats from the 11 north Karnataka districts in the 2008 polls.
While Joshi is a Brahmin, Shettar is a Lingayat, a community that is in dominant position in north Karnataka and is generally believed to be supporting the BJP.
Yeddyurappa is also a Lingayat.
With nominations closing April 17, the BJP has less than three weeks to evolve a strategy to contain damage from the KJP and also win the people’s trust again – a difficult task for a party that has so far shown it is good at playing waiting games.
(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at [email protected])