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Aditi Phadnis: Revenge of the fallen

Source : BUSINESS_STANDARD
Last Updated: Fri, Dec 07, 2012 21:01 hrs

pIt was October 2007 and Rajnath Singh was president of the Bharatiya Janata Party BJP H D Deve Gowda&rsquos Janata Dal Secular JDS with 56 members of legislative Assembly MLAs didn&rsquot have the numbers to form a government Deve Gowda was forced to do a deal with the devil &mdash the BJP that had 79 MLAs in a House of 224 The arrangement was that Deve Gowda&rsquos son H D Kumaraswamy would rule for two and a half years and then yield the chief ministership to the BJP&rsquos B S Yeddyurappa then the state deputy chief ministerppBut when the time came for Kumaraswamy to hand over the mantle to Yeddyurappa he changed his mind Around the same time one of his ministers M P Prakash broke away from the JDS Karnataka was under President&rsquos rule Rajnath Singh saw this as an opportunity &mdash the party could go to town shouting it had been betrayed by the JDS and sweep the electionsppBut Yeddyurappa was having none of that It was his moment in the sun after all He ran to Delhi to beg plead cajole &mdash do anything to let him become chief ministerppRajnath Singh told him &ldquoMr Yeddyurappa you SHALL NOT become chief minister&rdquo Yeddyurappa returned to Bangalore and staked claim to become chief minister of a minority government That government lasted a week President&rsquos rule was declared and elections followed in April 2008ppThat was the first sign that Yeddyurappa had come into his own &mdash he was going to be bullied by no one advised by no one and would continue to be his own man This man is going to be their nightmare And there are several reasons for thisppYeddyurappa is a Lingayat Two castes &ndash the Vokkaliga and the Lingayat &ndash have been the dominant social groups in Karnataka since the state was created The tussle for power between these two communities has been the emleitmotif emof politics in the state Karnataka has had five chief ministers from the Vokkaliga community and six have been Lingayats Three chief ministers have been from the backward classes while Brahmins have managed to hold the top spot twice The Vokkaligas who comprise around 15 per cent of the population of Karnataka are spread mainly across Bangalore Mandya Hassan Mysore Kolar and Chikamagalur Lingayats comprise around 17 per cent and are dominant in the central and the northern parts of Karnataka The Dalits are around 23 per cent of the population the Kurubas eight per cent and the Muslims make up 10 per cent The rest is Christians and others All these numbers are approximations but they do indicate the proportionsppThe last memorable Lingayat chief minister of Karnataka was Veerendra Patil when the Congress party was in power in the state in the 1980s Patil however suffered a stroke in the saddle and was unable to function for several months Rajiv Gandhi the then prime minister ordered his replacement Patil died soon thereafter his community said of a broken heart and the Lingayats promised to avenge the humiliation to the community and their leader They moved emen masse emto the BJPppBetween the 1980s and the decade of 2000 a lot changed in the political landscape of Karnataka The state &ndash especially the Hubli-Dharwad-Mangalore region &ndash had always been strongly majoritarian During L K Advani&rsquos emrath yatra emone of the largest contingent of kar sevaks was from north Karnataka This is the region to which Yeddyurappa belongs Unlike the topography of south Karnataka &ndash the fertile rich alluvial plains of Hassan and Mandya &ndash north Karnataka is poor arid badly irrigated and always on the edge a communal tinder box So this was fertile breeding ground for the growth of the BJPppYeddyurappa began his political life as a secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in his village Shikaripura He was arrested during the Emergency of 1975 and in 1983 he contested and won the Shikaripura Assembly seat which he has represented five times since thenppHe might have been just that &ndash just another influential BJP MLA &ndash had a dispute not broken out in the BJP between Anantha Kumar and Dhananjaya Kumar They were rival upper castes But in Yeddyurappa the entire Lingayat community saw another Veerendra Patil The BJP could see through Yeddyurappa the chances of getting a foothold in a state in the south Moreover this was not just urban centres &ndash the party saw its rural base growingppThe BJP swept the 2008 Assembly election Yeddyurappa doled out contracts offered ministerships and denotified land with a generous hand The Karnataka Lokayukta finally caught up with him Yeddyurappa confessed that an illegal iron ore export racket that involved some of his ministers occurred under his watch But the Lokayukta also charged him with denotifying government land for his sons Raghavendra and Vijayendra The BJP brass had warned him not to do this But Yeddyurappa told friends he had no choice family pressure He was arrested in October 2011 and sent to jail He got bail but the case is onppObviously he could not have continued to be chief minister He said Sadananda Gowda should be made chief minister A Vokkaliga but from a small sub-caste Yeddyurappa thought Gowda would be biddable because he had no mass base he had to be elected to the council because no one would vacate their Assembly seat for himppBut Gowda proved to be his own man So when Yeddyurappa got bail and wanted his old job back Gowda said he wouldn&rsquot move Yeddyurappa mounted another rebellion And the BJP brass gave in Jagadish Shettar became chief minister in consultation with YeddyurappappStill dissatisfied Yeddyurappa said he would leave the BJP Initially nobody believed him In Haveri on Saturday Yeddyurappa launched the Karnataka Janata Pakshe a move that could cause the BJP government in Karnataka to fall because several MLAs are expected to rally behind himppThe Karnataka Assembly elections are due in May next year The BJP has less than five months to straighten things outp

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