Uneasy lies the crown: Yeddy (right) with Gowda

BJP ready to put Yeddy back in charge or lose Karnataka in fresh 'Ramulu' churning

Prashun Bhaumik |

The party of the gods is faced with a mortal duvidha – to hand over Karnataka back to Yeddyurappa whom it had to remove because of the shadow of corruption or to watch its night-watchman CM Gowda get bowled at the legislative council elections later this month.

By RD Nair

With former minister-turned rebel Sreeramulu achieving a landslide victory in the Bellary by-elections political equations in the state are headed for a unique kind of, never-before-witnessed, shake-up. A forewarning to this effect came with three simultaneous developments.

The first was the decisive victory that Ramulu managed proving that he is the unquestioned leader of the majority backward classes in northern Karnataka. This was a danger signal for both the BJP and the Congress in five districts. While the BJP candidate lost his deposit the number of votes Ramulu’s two opponents could garner did not even constitute 40 per cent of the total number of votes polled.

Ramulu’s 47,000 victory margin was a real eye-opener. The setback has seen the Congress losing its traditional Muslim and backward castes vote bank. As has been the case in the past the Congress has once again begun talking about finding the reasons for it and possible remedial steps that could be taken. Chances are that the concern visible in the Congress circles now will not go beyond the high decibel pronouncements.

Despite that the Congress is all set to bring in a no-trust motion against the Sadananda Gowda ministry and hopes to get the support of not only the JDS but also the Independents led by Sreeramulu.

The BJP found the shockingly unexpected setback difficult to stomach. Here too former chief minister Yeddyurappa had outsmarted the party. Though he had predicted BJP victory as a foregone conclusion, before starting his much-touted campaign in the constituency, he had started complaining how the party bigwigs had compelled him to campaign in Bellary despite him being unwell.

By the time he concluded his campaign he knew which side the wind was blowing and nonchalantly announced that victory or defeat didn’t bother the party but that its base in the district was safe. The party had hoped that he would have brought not only the 40 per cent Lingayat votes but also another 10 per cent or so of other backward classes.

But even in that defeat BSY emerged a victor since he had firmly convinced the party that he was the only leader capable of swinging the masses in BJP’s favour. That pep talk is bearing fruit now. Unwillingly though, the state party leaders seem to have fully swallowed the bait. So much so that state BJP chief Eshwarappa is falling at Yeddy’s feet pleading that he take the reins of the party and that he is willing to vacate his position.

The state party is keen on bringing back Yeddy either as chief minister or party chief. That is why Eshwarappa offered to step down. The two held a closed-door meeting where Yeddy is known to have assured that he will help win between 140-150 seats in the 2013 elections.

Party insiders believe Yeddy will either be reinstalled as CM or given the party chief’s post by the end of this month. But the former CM’s camp is insistent on not accepting anything other than the CM’s post. They argue that if Jayalalithaa can become the Tamil Nadu CM despite facing so many cases why not BSY who has got bail in all the cases.

The other player in the field is former prime minister Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular). His son and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy had taken care to have his trusted colleague and MLA Zameer Ahmed campaign for Ramulu. Now claiming that he was instrumental in swinging the Muslim votes in his favour, he requested Ramulu to join his party.

But Kumaraswamy still cannot count on Ramulu as an ally since his tiff with the Reddy brothers when he was chief minister is still fresh in the minds of the Reddy camp of which Ramulu is an essential part. The tiff he had with the Reddy brothers over the Rs 150-crore bribe scam must still be fresh in the mind of the Valmiki leader. At that time Gowda junior had added his share of allegations against the Reddys.

Now a stage has been reached where the JDS can’t even count on the full support of the Vokkaliga vote bank, the second largest in the five northern districts after the Lingayats. So the JDS can never hope to gain supremacy on its own.

If its efforts to rope in the Ramulu group succeed the JDS will reach one step nearer to its hopes of dislodging the BJP government since the Valmiki leader can bring in at least five other Independents with him besides the bulk of the backward classes votes in northern Karnataka.  A tie-up of this kind can bring a double bonus —- of sending the BJP government packing now and ensuring a return to power after the 2013 elections to the Assembly.

Instead of saying yes to his self-proclaimed benefactor that JDS has positioned itself to be, Ramulu announced his plans to float a party and soon after taking oath rushed to the Canchalguda prison in Hyderabad and came back with the blessings of his mentor Janardhan Reddy.

Ramulu plan is to float a regional political party bringing together Minorities, Backward Classes and Dalits which is locally known as AHINDA or Alpasankhyataru , Hinudlidavuru, Mattu Dalitaru besides the independent legislators including Gulihatti Shekhar, Narendra Swamy, Shivraj Thangadagi, Venkataramanappa and D Sudhakar and three BJP rebels — G Somashekhara Reddy, TH Suresh Babu, B Nagendra and MLC Mrityunjay Jinaga. The party is likely to be launched on Sankranti Day on January 14.

Fortunately for him now he is seen as the new messiah of the Ahinda movement. The various Ahinda fragments had approached him for help to revive the movement once they were assured he won’t be returning to the saffron party. With the entire backward classes groups aligning with him it will be a tough task for even Kuruba leader Siddaramaiah to help revive the Congress in the northern parts of the state.

The strategy is for the Independents to operate as a ginger group allied to the Ramulu party. He also has plans to ensure a national presence and for this purpose will be conferring with JD (U) president Sharad Yadav and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the coming weeks.

Surprisingly even the BJP is keen on continuing with its love-hate relationship with Sreeramulu. The ruling party needs his help to ensure Sadananda Gowda’s victory in the impending Legislative Council polls which will decide his future as Chief Minister. The problem is that he will definitely face stiff opposition from the Congress and the JDS and if Ramulu and his Independent colleagues join the Opposition it will definitely spell defeat for Gowda.

That is perhaps why the party is using Yeddy’s good offices to woo the Valmiki veteran. The purpose is to ensure Ramulu and his colleagues do not help the Opposition to embarrass the party by defeating Gowda. The election is scheduled for December 22. Yeddy is also counting on the possibility of the independent legislators supporting the party since none of them wants to face fresh polls at this juncture.

Even as the power hungry BJP is keen on bringing the Lingayat strongman back to the gaddi there could be stiff opposition from two powerful leaders — LK Advani and Anant Kumar.  But the drubbing it received at Bellary seems to have convinced powerful groups in both the RSS and BJP the urgent need to rehabilitate Yeddy who still claims he can bring the party back to power.

Another problem was the fear that Yeddy may even split the party and join either Sharad Pawar’s NCP or Sharad Yadav’s JDU. That is why Eshwarappa rushed to meet the Lingayat leader requesting him to take control of the party as well as the government.

No wonder Congress leader Siddaramaiah asserts that it is Yeddy who is ruling the state and controlling the bureaucracy and as the official Chief Minister Gowda is only supposed to sign when BSY tells him to do so. Either way the New Year will see him returning as the party president if not the chief minister as he had claimed when resigning six months ago.