Modi and Shah Jharkhand Karnataka LoP
With about nine months remaining for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP leadership could soon rush ahead with the decisions because the state unit will start preparing for the polls | File photo

With no Leader of Oppn in Karnataka, Jharkhand, BJP may be on backfoot ahead of 2024

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The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) hunt for Leaders of Opposition (LoPs) in Karnataka and Jharkhand does not seem to be over, as the party has not been able to finalise names.

For three years, the BJP has not managed to find a suitable Leader of Opposition (LoP) in Jharkhand, in a bid to maintain a sense of social balance within the organisation. The case is no different in Karnataka, where the BJP has yet again failed to appoint an LoP for nearly two months since the state Assembly election results were announced.

“The senior leadership of the BJP has been holding discussions with all the Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and other senior leaders in the organisation. We are confident that a decision to choose a Leader of Opposition (LoP) will be taken in a few days,” said a senior BJP leader from Jharkhand. The leader also said the decision on the new LoP must be taken because the Jharkhand Assembly session will begin on July 28.

The Jharkhand issue

The problem for the BJP in Jharkhand started soon after the Assembly election results were announced in December 2019. After losing the elections, the BJP decided that it should try to put its house in order in Jharkhand and bring former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi back into the party. Marandi had quit the BJP in 2006 and formed his own political party after differences with the party’s central leadership.

The move to bring back Marandi in the BJP finally worked in February 2020 when the former CM decided to merge his political party, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), with the BJP. The return of Marandi to the BJP made senior leaders of the party believe that he would be able to revive the state unit after the electoral debacle. As a result of the merger of the two parties, the BJP leadership decided to appoint Marandi as the leader of the legislative party and a rightful claimant for the post of LoP in the state Assembly.

Also read: Babulal Marandi takes charge as new BJP Jharkhand president

However, the Speaker of the Jharkhand Assembly did not approve the BJP’s decision to appoint Marandi as the LoP, saying he had contested the election on the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) ticket, and not the BJP’s. Since then, the decision on the appointment of LoP has been pending before the Speaker.

“We have finished talking to all leaders of the party, and it is possible that a decision will be taken and a name will be announced after the monsoon session,” said a senior BJP leader in the know.

The absence of an LoP in Jharkhand has created another set of problems — the state government has not been able to appoint or fill in the vacant spaces in the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), or appoint the Lokayukta in Jharkhand.

The Karnataka dilemma

Even after more than 50 days of the electoral debacle in Karnataka, the state BJP unit has been unable to finalise the name for the LoP in the state, as the party unit seems to be riddled with factionalism.

The political situation in the state has worsened for the BJP because, for the first time, there was no LoP in the Assembly during the first Budget session of the new government.

BJP leaders in Karnataka believe that the central leadership will take a final decision after the monsoon session of Parliament. Along with finding a suitable LoP, the challenge for the party is also to look for a new state president.

“The senior leaders and the central leaders have held several rounds of discussion on the choice of the state president and the LoP. A final call can be expected after the monsoon session. The appointments can get further delayed because the Assembly session is over and there is no pressing need for the central leadership to announce the appointments anytime soon,” said a senior BJP leader from Karnataka.

Also read: Why Karnataka BJP can’t pick Opposition leader and party chief yet

Senior leaders of the BJP suggested that the central leadership has been unable to decide on this yet because the state unit is divided between former chief minister BS Yeddiyurappa, who is also the seniormost Lingayat leader in the state, and the BJP’s general secretary (organisation) BL Santhosh. The former chief minister of Karnataka, BS Bommai, is also keen on being appointed either as the state president or the LoP of the Assembly.

“The central leadership is taking time in deciding because most of these leaders are promoting either themselves or a member of their family for the appointment of the top two posts,” the BJP leader from Karnataka added.

Electoral challenge

With about nine months remaining for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP leadership could soon rush ahead with the decisions because the state unit will start preparing for the polls.

Both Jharkhand and Karnataka are crucial for the BJP because, of the 42 Lok Sabha seats between them, the BJP had won at least 36 in the 2019 general elections.

“The role of the LoP and state president is limited to administrative work and election preparedness because the polls will be fought under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” the BJP leader from Karnataka added.

Political analysts believe the delay in appointing a new LoP by the central leadership suggests an unduly long evaluation of the position. “The post of LoP is like a stepping stone for the post of chief minister. The prolonged delay is because the central leadership is trying to solve the caste maze and check the potentiality of each aspirant before deciding,” said Jai Mrug, Mumbai-based political analyst and psephologist.

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