Weak BJP leadership makes a pragmatic move in Karnataka

By: Shubham Ghosh
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There is a big roar over the continuing crisis that has plagued Karnataka's political circles for some time now. The former chief minister and a Lingayat strongman, B S Yeddyurappa, stuck to the task of cornering his successor DV Sadananda Gowda and finally had the last laugh by having the latter removed from the top position.

BSY-Narendra Modi

Several quarters have expressed their disapproval of the fact that a national political party, which is even harbouring hopes to come back to power in the near future, bowed to a regional satrap and acted according to the latter's whims. Right, the way in which things unfolded in Karnataka, the state where the BJP formed its first-ever government and through it made its debut in governance in south India, could have been better.

But, if we, for a moment turn our head and study what's happening in other parts of the country where there is a similar crisis brewing, we will see that the BJP's performance in responding to the Karnataka crisis was better. The other national political party, Congress, which also faced a political crisis in Andhra Pradesh in recent times, failed to solve it in a fair manner and it threatened the Congress government there.

Pragmatism shown by a weak leadership

The BJP's cautious move in Karnataka can be apparently seen as a defeat but actually it is not. The BJP leadership, although a fragmented one at the moment, yet managed to make a move which helped in averting a major crisis in governance and the looming instability. BSY, despite all his problems, is a major support for the party in the state and the top leaders know very well that it will be futile to engage in an ego tussle with the dissenting leader. The BJP has indeed thought ina pragmatic way.

Individual members are important for party

We in India often tend to think that in politics, the party organisation should be sacrosanct, and every individual should be subordinate to that for a greater interest. The centralised structure of the Congress where a single family/individual played the important role of imposing 'democracy from above' is a point in hand. Perhaps the century-old party has instilled such a belief in us. But has that model worked? The Gandhis had destroyed the party's local strength in a quest of centralising all power and today, the once-ubiquitous Congress is in a shambles. In a state like UP, the Congress has lost its base in a way that it might not ever reclaim it ever. And the reason for that: the top leadership thought and still think itself to be the real driving force.

The BJP, through its current handling of the Karnataka crisis, has shown a different way. It has acknowledged the fact that strong individuals in the party are indispensable assets. These individuals, by virtue of their strong social support base or that created by high governance skills, build and expand their own political bases and add to the party's strength while doing so.

The party clearly plays second-fiddle to these men with a hope that they will serve as its pillars of support in the times of need. This pragmatism was clearly reflected during the BSY-BJP episode that unfolded in Karnataka recently.

Narendra Modi is another such individual in the party. The man has been serving as a trump card for the BJP in successive elections despite criticism or not and it will be absolutely naive for the party to disturb the momentum that Modi and Gujarat have, by creating a controversy. It does not even bother to sacrifice a lesser player (read Sanjay Joshi) to facilitate the bigger man (read Modi) for in the ultimate count, it will be the party which will gain.

Development over Hindutva?

The latest political drama in Karnataka might also indicate to another development. The BJP and its Parivar associates, have been facing a dilemma in recent times: whether to return to the basics of Hindutva or choose development as the main agenda, particularly at a time when some significant polls are coming up this year, next year and the year after. The Sangh Parivar, after the Karnataka episode, seems to have voted more for the second option. In Gujarat, the Parivar has already backed Modi and relies on his development model to do wonders yet another time.

In Karnataka, by bowing before the BSY force, the saffron camp has given an impression that the Lingayat strongman, who is known for his networking and ability to generate funds for the party coffers, is a better choice when compared to DV Sadananda Gowda, a man with a strong grounding in the Sangh Parivar. The Karnataka society is more affected by caste divisions than core Hindutva ideology, something which might have made the BJP tilt more towards BSY.

The BJP might have used it as an opportunity to take a fresh stance for the approaching polls and win public support by siding with the issue of development. For, the state has seen some serious flare-ups on religious lines in the last few years, something which has been emphasised on by the critics of the party. Reflecting on caste and development-based politics instead of ideological ones will suit the party more at this hour.

BJP has survived the initial scare

It will be wrong to say that the BJP's problems are over once Jagadish Shettar became the CM. There will be retaliation from the Gowda camp for sure. But by accommodating BSY, BJP at least has survived till the second stage. It can now try to concentrate on the other issues for the bigger threat to the government's survival has been overcome. After all, politics is the art of the possible.

Strong local and weak central leadership

The funny part of the story with the BJP is that one of its big drawbacks is also one of its big positives. That is, the BJP has not been successful in promoting its regional leaders into national faces but this has helped the party achieve powerful regional bases in whichever states it rule, unlike its rival, the Congress. The problem for the party which is turning increasingly bottom-heavy is that it needs a strong central leadership, strong enough to deal with the satraps from an equal position. The New Delhi leadership averted the initial danger in Karnataka from a good move made from a weak position but it can not afford to bank on its weakness every time a BSY holds it to ransom.

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