Bypoll turns into supremacy battle in Karnataka BJP (Karnataka Newsletter)

September 11th, 2011 - 4:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bangalore, Sep 11 (IANS) The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s problems in Karnataka seem to be only multiplying with time. The latest to haunt it is who should lead the campaign for the party candidate in an assembly byelection set for Sep 26.

The bypoll in Koppal in north Karnataka, around 300 km from Bangalore, is also a problem that the BJP created for itself and the state by proclaiming it to be its “gateway” to ruling southern India.

To increase its strength in the assembly, the BJP, which came to power for the first time in Karnataka and in a southern state in May 2008, has been making opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JDS) legislators quit the assembly and their parties to join it and fight the coming byelections as its nominees.

Koppal was won by JDS candidate Karadi Sanganna in the May 2008 polls. He quit the assembly and his party in March this year to join the BJP and the Sep 26 bypoll is to fill that vacancy.

When Sanganna joined the BJP, the chief minister was B.S. Yeddyurappa, whose supporters now want him to lead the campaign, though he was forced to quit July 31 after being indicted by Lokayukta (ombudsman) for graft in the massive illegal mining scam.

“Yeddyurappa was instrumental in getting Sanganna join the BJP. Hence he should now lead the campaign and see that Sanganna is elected,” asserts D.B. Chandre Gowda, BJP Lok Sabha member from the Bangalore North constituency.

Chandre Gowda himself joined the BJP ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, leaving the Congress after being active in that party for decades.

Chandre Gowda was such a staunch Congressman that he vacated the Chikmagalur Lok Sabha seat in 1978 to enable then Congress president Indira Gandhi to contest and get elected after she and her party were routed in all of northern India in the 1977 polls held after she lifted the internal emergency.

He has been asserting that victory for Sanganna, who has been fielded by the BJP for the Sep 26 bypoll, will be difficult if D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who succeeded Yeddyurappa on Aug 4, leads the campaign in Koppal.

Several other party parliamentarians and legislators loyal to Yeddyurappa also want him to remain the main BJP leader in the state, notwithstanding the slew of graft charges against him.

This is being resisted by Sadananda Gowda himself, though he was handpicked by Yeddyurappa to succeed him and has been dubbed as “Yeddyurappa’s puppet”.

Others opposing a prominent role for Yeddyurappa in the bypoll campaign include state party chief K.S. Eshwarappa, party general secretary and Lok Sabha member from Bangalore South H.N. Anantha Kumar, several ministers in the Gowda cabinet and a section of the party legislators.

They fear that corruption scandals surrounding Yeddyurappa would hurt the BJP’s prospects in the Koppal bypoll if he is projected as the main campaigner.

Apparently, Yeddyurappa’s supporters want to project him as the sole leader who can win elections for the party in the state, even though he is fighting several court cases. Their efforts have, however, not found favour with the party’s central leadership. BJP president Nitin Gadkari has suggested “collective leadership” to fight the byelection.

“We will fight the bypoll collectively. There are no differences among us on who will lead the campaign. We are a national party and always fight the polls collectively,” Sadananda Gowda has been saying after meeting Gadkari along with Yeddyurappa in Nagpur Sep 6.

This is the first election that Sadananda Gowda faces as chief minister.

For the BJP too, it is the first election test with its first chief minister battling several corruption cases in courts and its controversial leader, mining baron G. Janardhana Reddy, in a Hyderabad jail for illegal mining in Andhra Pradesh.

Sanganna faces Basavaraj Hitnal of the Congress and Pradeep Gouda Patil of the JDS. It should be a three-way fight though there are several Independents. Counting is Sep 29.

A win in Koppal would be a relief to both Gowda and BJP central leaders, though wrangling should continue as to who should get credit for it.

A defeat could increase manifold the problems of dissidence as a blame game will begin and Yeddyurappa and his supporters will redouble efforts to retain their hold on the party.

(V S Karnic can be contacted at

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