Karnataka BJP has no Opposition leader in Assembly weeks after rout
One and a half months after the Congress formed a government in Karnataka, there is no Opposition leader in the House – for the first time in the history of the Assembly. The main Opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not yet elected its Legislative Party leader – and it is not clear when this will happen.
The BJP, which had relied heavily on the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah to deliver an electoral victory that didn’t happen, is facing a dearth of popular leaders in the state after the rout.
The BJP is clearly missing the mass appeal of former chief minister BS Yediyurappa or BSY, who did not contest the election. There is also a clear division between the factions which owe allegiance to BSY and BJP general secretary BL Santosh.
No wonder, the Congress is mocking the BJP. As one of its leaders said: “The Karnataka Assembly needs an Opposition leader on an urgent basis.”
The confusion after the election defeat and infighting within has made the BJP a divided house, making it difficult to pick a Leader of the Opposition.
Also, the party has not chosen a Chief Whip, whose vital role will be to coordinate between the Legislature Party leader and MLAs and to communicate to the Speaker whatever the BJP may want to convey.
A senior BJP leader who is an MP but did not wish to be named told The Federal that the party was in a pathetic condition in Karnataka due to lack of unity.
In the past, the BJP had fewer MLAs for several years but there was unity to face the Assembly sessions against the Congress. But now, despite 65 MLAs, it is finding it difficult to pick its leader in the House, he said.
“Either the BJP high command is weak or is confused or it is not keen on Karnataka. There may be several factions but the BJP has to be firm in taking decisions,” he felt.
Even though more than six weeks have passed since the BJP lost power in the state, some leaders are still busy throwing mud at one another.
The BJP once used to pride itself as a “party with a difference”. One of its senior members quipped that it now looks more like a “party with differences”.
Senior leaders including general secretary CT Ravi, MP Pratap Simha, former Union minister DV Sadananada Gowda and former chief minister Basavaraj Bommai continue to issue public statements, indicating all is not well with the BJP in Karnataka.
The two main factions are both eager to get their nominees elected as the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) and as the state president, a post which will be vacated by Nalin Kumar Kateel.
BSY reportedly wants former chief minister Basavaraj Bommai to be the Opposition leader as he has more experience in handling parliamentary affairs. But former minister V Sunil Kumar and MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal are eyeing the post from the BL Santosh camp, another senior leader said.
Bommai and Yatnal are from the Lingayat community.
For the state BJP president’s post, BSY prefers his loyalist R Ashok whereas Dr CN Ashwath Narayan from the other camp wants to head the Karnataka unit. Both leaders hail from the Vokkaliga community.
These developments are reportedly worrying the central leadership as it wants to retain all the 25 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka in the 2024 elections. The BJP leadership can neither antagonise BSY, an influential Lingayat community leader, nor can it turn a blind eye to the demands of the anti-BSY camp.
The first joint session of the new Assembly started on Monday (July 3) without an Opposition leader to greet the governor. BSY did not agree to make Sunil Kumar of the BL Santosh team the leader of the Legislature Party.
The BJP high command called BSY to Delhi for a meeting on Sunday. BSY reportedly batted for Bommai. But the feeling in Delhi is that Bommai is not very much liked in the Karnataka BJP.
The BJP has decided to send two observers to Karnataka to collect the opinion from their MLAs.
BL Santosh is said to have recommended former minister V Sunil Kumar or Basanagauda Patil Yatnal but BSY has opposed this. Yatnal is known to be an opponent of BSY and his son BY Vijayendra.
Ahead of the May elections this year, the BJP leadership gave ticket to new faces and did not allow some senior leaders to contest. But now it is not in a position to force its way, a former minister in the Bommai cabinet told The Federal.
Karnataka, which was the BJP’s only citadel in southern India, is proving to be a headache to the party.