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BJP MLAs and defeated candidates want to end the criticism of the free schemes in the state under the new regime, which they fear will further erode their party base.

BJP's post-mortem of Karnataka loss betrays numerous cracks within

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An ongoing free and frank analysis within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the humiliating Karnataka election defeat has led its leaders to conclude that an all-round crisis is to blame for the loss of face.

Short of blaming by name Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP sources admit that both successful and defeated candidates have made several painful admissions. More than one party leader underlined that it was wrong to have believed that Modi and Shah will attract voters to the BJP when the Karnataka unit had failed to throw up state leaders to take on Congress stalwarts.

Watch: Blame game widens the rift in Karnataka BJP following poll debacle

Since the Congress won a thumping victory from the May assembly battle, decisively ending five years of BJP rule, the party has been both licking its wounds and trying to find out what exactly went wrong. The answers, which have emerged internally, are only causing more pain.

Internal findings

Most BJP leaders want, on the strength of inputs gathered from activists on the ground, that the party should change its political strategies rather than simply keep attacking the Congress.

These leaders now admit that the Congress “guarantees” – including 10 kg of free rice a month to the poorest of the poor – turned a mass of people in favour of the grand old party besides strengthening its support base. “The free rice scheme has created an impression in the minds of the people that the Central government is not allowing (Chief Minister) Siddaramaiah to implement it,” said one BJP source.

Also read: A ‘frozen’ cultural policy may fix Karnataka’s moral policing, communal menace

The free bus scheme for women and the promise of free electricity up to 200 units have created a buzz among the public. In the villages it helped the Congress to get more popularity.

According to highly placed sources in the BJP, the party MLAs and defeated candidates want to end the criticism of the free schemes, which they fear will further erode the party base.

Congress freebies

“The freebie schemes helped the Congress achieve a huge victory. Now the Congress government is implementing it. If we go on mocking the schemes, it will have a bad impact,” another leader told The Federal. Already, there is a growing impression among ordinary people that the BJP is anti-poor. 

There is also a realisation that a leadership crisis has gripped the BJP in Karnataka, the only southern state the party ruled. It could not find even one person who could lead the BJP from the front effectively.

Also read: Siddaramaiah begins with a bang, rolls out polls promises in a month

This is worrisome since the BJP has to now fight the Bengaluru municipal elections and next year’s parliamentary elections.

Most victorious and defeated MLAs admit they could not develop any leader after BS Yediyurappa, a former chief minister who alone can boast of a pan-Karnataka appeal.

Karnataka leaders

Leaders like R Ashok, Dr Ashwatha Narayana, V Sunil Kumar, Basanagouda Patil Yatnal and Shobha Karndlaje are vocal but have not shown the ‘state-level’ leadership quality like BSY, whose support comes from both South and North Karnataka.

Even after the defeat, BJP leaders, some pointed out, are involved more in pulling down one another. “If this continues, it will cause more damage to the party,” one person warned. Added a party veteran: “Senior leaders like BSY, KS Eshwarappa and others were side-lined and it was thought the BJP will take power due to the Modi-Shah influence. That strategy failed drastically.”

“Karnataka’s political culture is entirely different from other states,” he added, while requesting anonymity.

Resenting too much control from New Delhi, senior BJP leaders like Jagadish Shettar, Lakshmana Savadi, Nehru Olekar and others joined the Congress before the assembly elections. Some BJP sources fear another round of defections could happen before the Lok Sabha battle.

Continuing discontent

There has been speculation that the BJP may not re-nominate around a dozen of its 25 MPs. This has already triggered murmurs of discontent. “The central leadership has to find remedies for all these,” one leader said.

The BJP also admits that it has been outshone and outperformed on the campaign strategy and social media blitz by the Congress. These are the core areas where the BJP for years had the upper hand. Now, that advantage is also gone.

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