BJP's southern problem sees no end (Karnataka Newsletter)
The BJP may be gung-ho that it has overcome hurdles to name Narendra Modi its prime ministerial candidate, but the party does not seem to have a clear solution to its headaches in Karnataka.
However, in spite of claims that Modi's nomination has galvanized the Bharatiya Janata Party cadres across the country for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party is reduced to searching for a strong local satrap in Karnataka to win a significant number of seats.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had won 19 of the 28 seats, but it is no longer confident of even retaining them following the drubbing from the Congress in the May 5 assembly elections.
The BJP was not expected to retain power in the assembly elections, but the severity of defeat left both the state and central party leaders in shock.
The party won only 40 seats in the 225-member assembly, a loss of 70 seats against its performance in the 2008 polls which brought it to power in a southern state for the first time.
The local strongman a section in the state and central BJP leadership is looking to is its former leader B.S. Yeddyurappa, who left last December to head his own Karnataka Janata Party.
The KJP managed to bag just six seats in the assembly but Yeddyurappa achieved the goal he had set for himself when he quit the BJP - to defeat his former party.
Now he wants to come back and though a section in the BJP too is keen on this, both have been finding it difficult to work out a face-saving formula for re-entry.
Yeddyurappa, who quit as the BJP's first chief minister in the state in 2011 over mining bribery charges, wants that not only he but all those who joined him from the BJP be treated fairly on their return.
He also wants Lok Sabha tickets for candidates he will choose.
If this is not agreeable, he is ready for seat-sharing with the BJP, a proposal that is much harder for it to swallow.
Either way, the BJP stands to lose ground, at least on the moral plane, as the party forced him out of Karnataka chief ministership so that its campaign against the corruption of the UPA government is not diluted.
With the BJP wanting every single seat it or its allies can win to be in a position to attract more allies to form the next government in New Delhi, it will not be a surprise if the party feels that nominating Modi as its prime ministerial candidate was easier than untying the southern knot.
As in the case of Modi's nomination, the BJP will have to work on veteran leader L.K. Advani to soften his stand against any truck with Yeddyurappa.
Advani had lambasted his party's leadership for not being tough on Yeddyurappa, whose over three-year tenure in Karnataka was marred by a spate of scandals at the height of the BJP's attack on the UPA over the 2G scam and those in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games.
The BJP is confident that it did the right thing by sidelining Advani in the case of Modi but doing so in the case of Yeddyurappa will only be exposing the party to "double standards" taunts from its opponents on the corruption issue.
That surely is not a welcome development for a party that is seeking a mandate to rule India with the promise of a corruption-free government.
(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 20-09-2013)