Regional outfits out to damage national parties in coming polls (Karnataka Newsletter)
Karnataka has been a graveyard for regional parties and the stage is set for one more attempt by such outfits to marginalize the two national parties - the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party - in assembly polls due next May.
Stalwarts like former chief ministers D. Devaraj Urs, S. Bangarappa and Ramakrishna Hegde could not make any impact when they floated regional parties. They have since passed away.
The Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) headed by former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda is the only regional party that is still active.
But it too is struggling to remain relevant as its support-base has not extended beyond a few districts in south Karnataka dominated by the Vokkaliga caste. Vokkaligas constitute about 16 percent of the state's 65 million population.
Gowda is a Vokkaliga. Despite all efforts he has not been able to rid the JD-S of the image of being a party dependent on Vokkaliga votes.
Inspite of such a discouraging history, former BJP chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa has quit the party to try his luck as head of the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP). He will take over as KJP president Dec 9 and field candidates in all the 224 assembly constituencies. The state assembly is 225-strong with one nominated member.
On the face of it, it appears that the time is opportune for strong regional outfits to marginalize the two national parties.
Firstly, both the parties have been hit by massive scandals at the national level weakening the authority of their central leadership.
Secondly, the state units of the two parties in Karnataka do not have strong and popular leaders.
Thirdly, the units are heavily into groupism and frequent appeals of the central leadership for unity of purpose have been ignored.
These negative factors do provide an opening for a regional party to cash in on but there is serious doubt about the ability of Yeddyurappa to benefit from them.
For, he has left BJP for all wrong personal reasons and not for any ideological differences.
His main grouse has been that he was not made state BJP chief as "promised" by party president Nitin Gadkari soon after he was forced to quit as chief minister July last year over mining bribery charges.
Yeddyurappa has less than six months to wipe out the image that he has left BJP for personal reasons and impress the voters that he has a positive agenda for development.
It is a huge challenge for the 69-year-old leader to meet.
However, his campaign against the BJP, based on the platform that it "betrayed" him and "conspired" to drive him out though he gave 40 years of his life to build it, is bound to badly hit BJP's prospects of retaining power it won for the first time in May 2008.
All indications are that Yeddyurappa and his KJP seem destined to be more a spoiler than a winner.
As BJP leader, Yeddyurappa had often blamed JDS for eating into chances of national parties coming to power in the state on their own.
With a fractured verdict from the coming assembly polls looming large the JDS might have the company of Yeddyurappa and KJP to share the 'spoiler' title.
(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)