BJP vs rebels: The sorry saga continues (Karnataka Newsletter)
Karnataka's ruling BJP deserves a trophy for sheer doggedness to be in office for a full term of five years, though each year of its reign since 2008 has been marred either by corruption scandals or inner party rebellion.
The party's first term in office in the state is due to end in May, but the party seems more preoccupied in fighting rebels than think about governance and welfare of the people of a state that is known as a technology and outsourcing hub and is crying for better civic infrastructure and services.
The current round of dissidence has taken BJP politics to new a low in the state with assembly speaker K.G. Bopaiah's whereabouts becoming a "mystery", resulting in Governor H.R. Bhardwaj seeking details of his tour.
Bopaiah was not present in his office Wednesday when 13 BJP rebels went to him to resign. The 13 are loyalists of former BJP chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who quit the party and the assembly Nov 30 and is orchestrating the dissidence to bring down the Jagadish Shettar government.
The 13 included C.M. Udasi and Shobha Karandlage, who quit Wednesday as public works minister and energy minister respectively.
They met Bhardwaj Wednesday and asked about Bopaiah and requested him to accept their resignations immediately. The speaker's absence is a first for Karnataka.
A saving grace for the BJP is that for the first time it is going all out to defeat dissidents instead of bowing to them, as in the past.
While the first two rebellions were spearheaded by the mining barons, the Reddy brothers, against Yeddyurappa, the former chief minister has become the BJP's bane since he was forced to quit in July 2011 over mining bribery charges.
First, the party bent backwards to please the Reddys, and later danced to Yeddyurappa's tune to dump D.V. Sadananda Gowda as chief minister last July. Jagadish Shettar took over from Gowda.
With his ambition to be considered the BJP's supreme leader in the state rebuffed by the party, Yeddyurappa is now bent on depriving the party a second term in office. After quitting the BJP, he floated the Karnataka Janata Party.
For months after he reluctantly left the chief minister's post, Yeddyurappa claimed the support of around 120 legislators in the 225-member assembly. The BJP's strength now stands at 118, including the speaker, as Yeddyurappa and another party legislator have quit the house.
His support base has now come down to 20 legislators, with 13 of them wanting to quit the assembly and the party as part of a strategy to prevent Shettar from presenting a full budget for 2013-14 on the grounds that he has lost majority and that assembly elections are due in May.
The opposition Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular, which have 71 and 26 members respectively in the assembly, have also been urging Shettar to desist from going in for a full budget.
But both the BJP and Shettar seem determined to present the budget Feb 8.
While ruling parties use the budget in an election year to boost their prospects by announcing populist programmes, it remains doubtful what electoral benefits the BJP can hope to gain by presenting it when its overall image lies shattered.
The BJP's intention to present a full budget is however serving the party's immediate goal: to score over dissidents, at least once in its first stint in power in the state.
(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at email@example.com)