BJP's problems mount as assembly polls near (Karnataka Newsletter)
By V.S. Karnic, Bangalore, March 9 : Karnataka's ruling BJP seems destined to face assembly polls due in May while struggling to set its house in order. The state unit, rocked by a spate of resignations of legislators recently, will have to get a new chief soon as incumbent K.S. Eshwarappa quit Thursday.
The new leader will have little time to put in place a cohesive team for the electoral battle as there are too many claimants for the post.
The latest development is in keeping with the drift that has become a trademark of the manner the party's central leadership has handled the state's affairs.
Eshwarappa's three-year term ended in January. Eshwarappa himself and several other state party leaders kept repeating for months before January that the Karnataka unit will get a new chief.
Several names were also floated. Former chief minister and former state party chief D. V. Sadananda Gowda and Lok Sabha members Prahlad Joshi and Nalin Kumar Kateel were mentioned in BJP circles as front runners to replace Eshwarappa.
All that talk died down as January ended with neither the state nor central party leaders stating whether Eshwarappa will continue till after the assembly polls.
The silence, coupled with frequent declarations by Eshwarappa that the party has almost finalized candidates for around 150 seats, gave the impression that the BJP was not planning a leadership change.
But the party now has to grapple with it, that too facing embarrassment as Eshwarappa's announcement came on the day voting took place for 208 urban local bodies and results will be out Monday.
The poll outcome may not be a pointer to the way assembly elections will go. However, a poor show by BJP, which is generally believed to be an urban-based party, will be a morale dampner.
Such a show could lead to more desertion from its ranks, triggered in the last few months by the party's former chief minister B. S. Yeddyurappa, who has quit BJP and is leading his own Karnataka Janata Party.
The BJP has lost three ministers and more than 10 other legislators to Yeddyurappa, who is expecting more to join his ranks after the local bodies poll results are out Monday.
That could well happen, as the BJP retaining power in the assembly polls looks increasingly difficult.
Incidentally, Eshwarappa and Yeddyurappa are also locked in a bitter struggle to prove their dominance in Shimoga, about 270km north of Karnataka. While Shimoga is Eshwarappa's home district, it is Yeddyurappa's strong political base.
Shimoga was one of the seven city corporations which went to polls Thursday along with the other urban local bodies.
Yeddyurappa, bitter about BJP not making him party chief after he was forced to quit as chief minister over mining bribery charges in July 2011, is going all out defeat his former party, both in the urban local bodies and the assembly polls.
By announcing his resignation as party chief ahead of Monday's results of local bodies poll, Eshwarappa may have saved himself from embarrassment in the event of poor show by the BJP.
But his face-saver only adds to BJP's problems that have been piling up in the state, thanks to a wavering central leadership which is increasingly proving that it is adept at taking decisions only after the damage has been done.
(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at email@example.com)