BJP, Karnataka polls, coastal Karnataka, Hindutva
BJP leaders said that those who had joined it are now either looking at options elsewhere or want to return to their original parties, mostly the Congress. | Representative image

Internal tussles torment BJP in Karnataka, Telangana and Assam

Ahead of 2024 elections, BJP old guard worried as those who joined from other parties want to go back

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To feed its electoral ambition, the BJP has been adopting robust inorganic growth across states. This now seems to be causing trouble for the central leadership, as some of the leaders inducted from other political parties want to return to their original outfits.

With only months left for the general elections, the BJP is trying to put its house in order amid growing unrest in Karnataka, Telangana and Assam, where there is a tussle between the BJP old guard and leaders inducted from the Congress and other parties.

BJP leaders said that those who had joined it are now either looking at options elsewhere or want to return to their original parties, mostly the Congress. “The crisis in Karnataka is self-created. The factionalism in the party after the recent rout is forcing people to look for options. The fights between some senior leaders are causing problems,” said a senior BJP leader from Karnataka.

Karnataka crisis

Taking note of the multiple issues, the central leadership has asked Union Home Minister Amit Shah to step in. BJP leaders said Shah has been talking to leaders in Karnataka and Assam.

Nowhere is the trouble evident than in Karnataka, where the BJP is in complete disarray, struggling to form a cohesive unit before local body elections in Bengaluru and the Lok Sabha battle.

BJP sources say some leaders who had joined from the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) in 2019 are now in touch with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar. It is suspected that of the 17 former Congress and JDS leaders, at least half were in talks with the Congress state leadership.

The problem for the BJP was aggravated when, on August 21, senior BJP leader ST Somashekhar, a former minister, met Siddaramaiah. Somashekhar had switched sides from the Congress and was instrumental in helping the BJP form a government in Karnataka by toppling a coalition government of the Congress and JD-S.

“It is the failure of leaders like (BS) Yeddiyurappa and (BS) Bommai because most of the leaders who joined the BJP from the Congress are loyal to Yeddiyurappa and Bommai,” a party leader from Karnataka said.

Leadership tussle

BJP members admit the ongoing infighting involving Yeddyurappa, Bommai and BJP general secretary BL Santhosh has caused a lot of harm.

“The fight is over the post of party president and leader of opposition in the Karnataka assembly. It is because of the tussle that the post of Leader of the Opposition is still vacant. It is embarrassing that the BJP does not have a LoP in the assembly,” the BJP leader added.

Karnataka is important in the BJP scheme of things. In 2019, it won 25 out of the 28 Lok Sabha seats and got more than 51 percent of the total votes polled. This was one of the reasons why the BJP’s overall showing nationally in 2019 improved. In 2014, the BJP won 17 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka.

A BJP leader told The Federal: “We are trying to stop BJP leaders from rejoining the Congress. We are telling them that the Congress already has a lot of MLAs, so they won’t get any big posts in the party or the state government. Even many senior Congress leaders have not been accommodated in the government. Why will the Congress accommodate those who left the party to be with the BJP?”

Telangana problem

The BJP is facing an immediate crisis in Telangana, where assembly polls are due soon, party sources say.

The BJP decision to appoint Union minister G Kishan Reddy as the state president of Telangana followed complaints against the incumbent Bandi Sanjay Kumar. Among those who protested against Sanjay Kumar were Etela Rajender and Komatireddy Raj Gopal Reddy. While Rajender was earlier with the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), Gopal Reddy was earlier with the Congress.

Rajender also nurses the dream of being named the chief ministerial candidate in the upcoming Telangana Assembly elections.

Feud in Assam

In Assam too, the tussle between the old guard and the recently inducted leaders from other political parties is causing a major headache.

Amid speculation that former Assam BJP president Rajen Gohain would contest on Congress ticket in 2024 from the newly formed Kaziranga Lok Sabha seat, Amit Shah summoned Gohain to New Delhi on Monday.

Shah reportedly succeeded in pacifying Gohain, who had alleged he was “feeling betrayed” by the delimitation exercise that changed the demographic profile of his home constituency, Nagaon. It is to be seen how long the truce lasts.

Several BJP leaders including another former state president Siddhartha Bhattacharya are unhappy both with the delimitation process and the growing influence of those who migrated from the Congress with chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Gohain last week said the delimitation had made it impossible for any BJP candidate to win from the Nagaon parliamentary constituency. “Despite numerous rounds of discussions with you, my concerns and deep dissatisfaction with the way the Nagaon Lok Sabha constituency has been constituted did not bring any change whatsoever,” he said in a letter to the chief minister.

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