BJP’s standing in Karnatika

Harihar Swarup

The outcome of Karnataka elections is loud and clear. It’s emergence of a grand   anti-BJP front before next year’s Lok Sabha’s elections which otherwise looked an impossible task. An error, a mighty miscalculation or call it political opportunism in inviting BJP leader B S Yeddurappa to form the government, giving him an unusually long time—15 days—to prove his majority on the floor of the house drove opposition parties to come on one platform. The Supreme Court cut the time to 24 hours given to Yeddurappa but, seeing no chance of mustering a majority, the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate resigned paving the way for the Congress-JD(S) coalition to form the government with H D Kumaraswamy heading it. Congress could have been in an unassailable position had it tied up with JD(S) before the election.
Governor Vajubhai Vala, himself a staunch RSS man, thought that in 15 days time, the BJP would be able to wean away Congress and JD(S) MLAs by offering them huge amount of money or allurement of office. But the apex court came in the way by reducing the time of floor test. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, a former governor himself, says: looking at the proceedings dispassionately, I think the Supreme Court’s circumspection has been right. In being corrective and not confrontationist, it has checked an error from becoming a disaster and stopped a mistake from becoming a misadventure with long lasing implication.  Gopalkrishna is incidentally the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.
The demand for the governor’s resignation has rightly been made. Opposition leaders say “if Vala has any self-respect he must quit”. The Supreme Court’s order is seen as a hidden reprimand, an indirect condemnation of his decision, an indictment after which he should not continue in office.  
The swearing-in of Kumaraswamy as chief minister was an impressive show. Leaders of most non-BJP parties were present to mark the launch of a regime hastily formed to stop the BJP from wresting control of the Karnataka.  Among the opposition leaders present at the swearing-in were Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati (BSP), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Ajit Singh(RLD). Sitaram Yechuri(CPI-M), Mamata Banerjee (TMC), Tejashwi Yada (RLD) and Akhilesh Yadav(SP) and Sudhakar Reddy (CPI).
The Karnataka election results has evidently boosted morale of the  Congress in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, going to poll this year end. These three BJP-ruled states suffer from heavy anti-incumbency, besides Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje becoming very unpopular. The Congress, if it conducts itself as a united party, may wrest MP and Rajasthan. In Chattisgarh, unfortunately, the Congress has no leader of stature who can be projected as chief ministerial candidate. The odds in this state are against the ruling BJP and one has to keep his fingers crossed. In keeping with Karnataka spirit, the Congress may tie up with regional parties in the run up to general elections. The BJP in 2018 is strikingly similar to Congress of 1970s. The so-called party with a difference (BJP) in 70s has become a party of no difference. In 2014, Narendra Modi was promising an end to the Congress culture, but today the ruling party has become a mirror image of its main enemy by constantly imitating Congress of seventies. BJP leaders in the past have lambasted Congress for misusing governors, attempting to split smaller parties, bullying courts, fielding criminal candidates and using state agencies to push party ideology. These are exactly the features of the ruling party today because when you mimic your enemy, you end up with same weaknesses.
BJP is in power in 20 states but faces three main challenges. First, a highly centralized high command and weakened party structure, second , the cult of a supreme leader which leaves little room for any other leader, and third, post Karnataka, sharply declining moral creditability. It is also lumbered with weak allies and is seen as menacing force that no regional party will ally with it for fear of being gobbled up. Just as anti-Congressism was the dominant sentiment in the 70s, today anti-BJPism sentiments is so widespread that from JDS to TDP to TRS to Trinamool, allying with BJP is seen as committing suicide. Regional parties prefer a weakened Congress to a powerful BJP. Greatest threat to the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha will be from those regional leaders, who hold firm in their pockets of influence. (IPA)

Monday, 28 May, 2018