BJP’s politics of pamper returns to haunt it (Karnataka Newsletter)

November 13th, 2011 - 1:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bangalore, Nov 13 (IANS) The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) unending troubles in Karnataka are a lesson on public life: it does not pay to gloss over immoral acts on the specious plea that they are not illegal.

The result of the BJP preferring legality over morality is pampering of two of its most powerful leaders in the state - B.S. Yeddyurappa, because of his long-standing association with the party and organising ability, and Gali Janardhana Reddy, as he had billions of rupees from mining business to bankroll the party.

The BJP had no qualms in using the Reddy brothers’ clout to work up a majority in 2008 to capture power for the first time in a south Indian state. The party won only 110 seats in the 225-member assembly that includes one nominated member.

The Reddy brothers lured six, five of whom were made cabinet ministers as a reward, and Yeddyurappa became the party’s first chief minister in southern India.

As the party’s strength in the assembly increased with the wooing of Congress and Janata Dal-Secular legislators to quit their seats and contest by-polls as BJP nominees, the leadership became weak, bowing to each of the Reddys’ demands.

Neither the state leadership nor the so-called ‘high command’ cared to rein in the Reddys.

The BJP ‘high command’ studiously ignored the ridicule not only from opposition parties but from the public for allowing the creation of a ‘Republic of Bellary’ where only the writ of the mining barons ran.

Bellary, the iron-ore rich district, is about 300 km from Bangalore.

In Yeddyurappa’s case, BJP president Nitin Gadkari came out with the famous explanation: “what he has done may be immoral but not illegal”.

Gadkari was right in a literal sense but far removed from what leadership is all about.

Political leadership, rather all leadership, is a wholesome business. There is no room for compartmentalising it for explanations like legally correct but morally wrong or morally upright but legally flawed.

By going in for a temporary victory on this thin ground, the BJP leaders have now become mere spectators with a sheepish look to boot, as law does catch up even in India where it moves at an excruciatingly slow pace.

Worse is the BJP leaders’ predicament as both Yeddyurappa and Reddy are now telling them it is payback time.

Within a day of Yeddyurappa coming out of jail Nov 8 on bail in corruption cases, his supporters mounted pressure on the party central leadership to make him the state unit chief.

Reddy has taken on the BJP in his battle to continue to run the “Republic of Bellary” the way he and his loyalists want - having civil and police officials of their choice and closing rules books and throwing laws to the dustbin.

Unlike Yeddyurappa, Reddy is orchestrating the battle from his cell in Hyderabad where he has been lodged since Sep 5.

He has fielded his associate and former health minister B. Sriramulu as an independent candidate in the Nov 30 by-poll to the Bellary Rural seat in the assembly. Sriramulu quit the BJP Nov 9.

Sriramulu won the seat in the May 2008 polls but quit in August as he was not taken in the D.V. Sadananda Gowda cabinet that succeeded Yeddyurappa’s ministry.

Reddy had made Sriramulu quit the assembly with a grand plan to give the BJP nightmares by floating a party. But to his misfortune, law caught up with him as he was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The BJP has fielded a novice Gadi Linngappa against Sriramulu in the hope of showing to everybody that party is above individuals.

The BJP’s downhill journey of first appeasing its state satraps and then trying to battle them for supremacy is unlikely to end soon as the assembly elections are due in about 18 months.

An early election is not ruled out if Sriramulu wins the by-poll, results of which will be out Dec 4.

Two BJP Lok Sabha members, one of whom is Sriramulu’s sister, and about a dozen state BJP lawmakers from Bellary and neighbouring districts will campaign for his victory. They have dared the BJP to take action against them, knowing fully well that expelling them will bring down the government.

The party’s state leadership is trying to woo them as it just cannot discipline them, a pitiable condition for a party that still goes around claiming to be the most disciplined outfit among the myriad parties.

Karnataka, which the BJP touted as its ‘gateway to rule south India’, seems set to show to the party and all others that the cost of valuing legality higher than morality is an unending tale of compromises.

The irony is that this higher goal may be achieved by the state when more than half of it - 99 taluks or revenue subdivisions out of 176 taluks - is hit by drought.

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at vs.karnic@ians.in)

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