The drama in Karnataka politics is not set to end anytime soon. Unlike his previous term, the Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa now enjoys a different power game in the party.
On one hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) central leadership has clipped his wings and taken control of the decision-making powers within the state. From portfolio allocation to ticket distribution and seeking funds for relief operation in flood-affected areas — for everything, Yediyurappa was made to wait for high command’s approval.
On the other hand, Yediyurappa has to keep the disqualified Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs, who helped his party come to power, happy even as the Supreme Court is yet to decide whether they can contest the bypolls or not. Party loyalists often ruffle feathers by making comments that antagonise them and this puts the Chief Minister in a much worse fix.
For instance, BJP MLA Umesh Katti on Sunday (September 29) said the rebel MLAs will have to find their own ways and the BJP will give ticket to Kagwad bypolls to one of the party workers and not to an outsider. Former Congress MLA Srimant Patil, however, is eyeing a BJP ticket from Kagwad.
Katti even told reporters that Raju Kage, a BJP worker in Kagwad, will contest on his own “if he does not get a ticket”.
An upset Yediyurappa rushed to douse the fire and said the party will give tickets to all the rebels. He further added that the party high command approved the decision. However, Chief Minister lamented that he was walking the tightrope and has to think 10 times before making any decision and carefully consider the implications of it.
The Lingayat strongman who once enjoyed full power within the party, today stands without much less of that. Even as a Chief Minister, he’s made to wait for approval on who will be part of his cabinet. Though he took oath as the Chief Minister on July 26, the high command made him wait for a month to finalise his ministry.
Again, when Yediyurappa wanted to give his son Vijjayendra a key position in the party, the BJP’s newly-appointed state president Nalin Kumar Katil and the party high command voiced their displeasure against dynasty politics.
Besides, the party appointed three deputy chief ministers — second-rung leaders to Yediyurappa — to appease various caste groups.
For the opposition which lost power because of BJP’s high handedness, the inaction in flood relief works, Centre’s non-allocation of flood relief funds and Yediyurappa’s rabble-rousing comments make it easier to target the ruling government.
Congress legislative party leader and former CM Siddaramaiah, who fights a different battle with ally JD(S), was quick to take potshots at Yediyurappa.
“I feel sorry for Yediyurappa. BJP clipped his wings and his party members harass him. They are not allowing him to discuss burning issues in the state,” Siddaramaiah said.
“The Chief Minister lacks the courage to demand funds from the Centre,” he added. He further went on to say that Yediyurappa should take an all-party delegation to the Centre to seek flood relief for the state.
Following the August floods that ravaged Karnataka, the state government initially estimated the damages to be around ₹38,451.11 crore. However, when the Centre objected, it reduced it to a mere tenth of the earlier estimate to ₹3,290.3 crore.
Like never before, a fund-crunched Chief Minister appealed to the people to contribute to flood relief and also sought corporates’ help.
To add to the fury, Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya said the state was empowered to handle the crisis and it need not knock at the Centre’s door for funds. Besides flood-affected people, farmers and MLAs, even the Chief Minister was unhappy with his comments.
Though the party rides on nationalist sentiments, its action against the local communities, vendetta politics and tight power control by the Centre are weakening the functioning of the government.
Soon after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested Vokkaliga leader DK Shivakumar in a money laundering case, the community members vowed to fight against the BJP. Besides, the dominant Lingayat group in North Karnataka sent out a similar message, saying they would protest if any decision was taken by the party to dislodge Yediyurappa.
Commenting on the current situation, former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, who is being investigated in an alleged phone tapping case, cautioned Yediyurappa and said, “People will make him fall from the tightrope he’s walking if the Chief Minister tends to ignore their demands and address the ground issues.”