By T S Sudhir
Score : Siddaramaiah 2.5, Yeddyurappa 0.5
If you wonder what I am talking about, it is real score card after the byelections to three seats in the Karnataka assembly. The results announced today saw the Congress winning two and the BJP one seat. But what was more significant is that not only did the Congress snatch Bellary Rural, one of the BJP citadels but also made BS Yeddyurappa miss a few heartbeats as his son B Y Raghavendra laboured to a 6430 votes facile victory. Hence the Karnataka CM’s score of 2.5.
What does the verdict mean for the BJP? For public consumption, unhappy faces. But given the fact that the BJP in Karnataka is a house divided, much like the Congress, how you read the result depends on which camp you belong to. In fact, there are quite a few happy faces, who see in the Bellary result a ray of hope. Because finally, the seat has been to an extent, been purged of the vice-like grip of the Reddy brothers – the power behind B Sriramulu, who had vacated the seat after he won the Bellary Lok Sabha seat in May 2014. So now the original BJP cadre can hope to make some inroads into Bellary. The fact that Obelesh, a trusted lieutenant of Sriramulu, lost from Bellary – that too by a margin of 33000 votes – showed the fear factor was not at play either.
Yeddyurappa, the newly crowned national vice-president of the BJP, would have hoped for a better display in his new avatar. His son scraped through but compared to dad’s 24000 votes margin as a KJP candidate in May 2013, this was a poor consolation triumph. In fact, the view in Bangalore is that if the Congress camp had displayed better hunting skills in Shikaripura, it could have reduced Raghavendra to a prey. In the end, despite winning, Raghavendra was found complaining about how the official machinery had been misused by the Congress. And dad Yeddyurappa floated the familiar conspiracy theory of Congress-JD(S) matchfixing.
But it is not to say that BSY is a spent force. As the state’s foremost Lingayat leader, Yeddyurappa is the community and BJP’s tallest leader. He would need to introspect if his pocket borough of Shimoga is being eroded and whether his DNA does not enjoy the same kind of mass support that he does. He realises that many in his own party would be happy over the narrow margin of victory and the shrewd politician that he is, he would need to learn his lessons from the verdict.
The man who would gain in strength is Siddaramaiah, who can now be expected to be more assertive both vis-a-vis leaders within the Karnataka Congress and the High command. His detractors would have to press the mute button for some time at least now. A weak 24, Akbar Road works to the CM’s advantage and he can use it to ward off pressure tactics of a G Parameshwara, the KPCC president, who wants to be deputy CM, home minister and also control Bangalore. But now with a 2-1 verdict under his belt, Siddaramaiah will not allow any such three-in-one desires of Parameshwara to take root at the Vidhana Soudha.
For long, Siddaramaiah has been pilloried as an outsider to the Congress, seen with suspicion, asked to prove his loyalty all the time. His latest assertion that he will attend a function with PM Modi, as per protocol, is indicative of the fact that he will be his own man. But at the same time, like what is expected of a good Congressman, he gave the credit for today’s victory to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi along with the party workers and the government programmes. He knows you do not need to pay tax for lip service.
More than anything, the Karnataka verdict proved three things. One, that the Lok Sabha victory (17/28 seats) was largely due to Narendra Modi. Which is why a wily Ananth Kumar reduced the Ananth Kumar vs Nandan Nilekani contest in Bangalore (South) to a Nilekani vs Modi battle.
Two, the voter is extremely smart and politically savvy. He seems to be fairly happy with the performance of the state government in its first year and wants good governance for the next four years. Three, the BJP has a lot of work to do in Karnataka if it wants to re-enter its gateway to south India in 2018.