V Dhananjay Kumar, president of Karnataka Janata Party (KJP), in an interview with Gyan Varma, says the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s central leadership hasn’t treated the party’s state leaders well. Edited excerpts:
Former Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa has said KJP would contest all 224 seats in the state. Do you think for the BJP, Yeddyurappa has reached a point of no return? Is a compromise possible, given Yeddyurappa has refused to meet BJP leader Arun Jaitley?
B S Yeddyurappa has taken a decision to sever all ties with his earlier party, the BJP. He has clarified this umpteen times, as he has been ill-treated in the BJP. Some false allegations have been made against him, with the active support and connivance of a few people in the BJP. He had also said this publicly when the Lokayukta report was presented. The Lokayukta hadn’t indicted him directly; it had only raised certain doubts. At that time, the national BJP leadership had said it would be difficult for it to face Parliament and so, Yeddyurappa should step down. However, it had added within a week, he would be made BJP’s president for Karnataka. But the BJP didn’t keep that promise.
Later, Nitin Gadkari again promised whenever Yeddyurappa would get relief from a court of law, he would be reinstated as chief minister. Now, the Karnataka High Court has quashed a particular portion of the charges on denotification of land against him. The decision was also upheld by the Supreme Court. Despite respite from the two courts, the BJP leadership did nothing for Yeddyurappa. So, now, he is fed up and that is why he wants to sever all ties with the BJP.
Another reason is in a democracy, a leader who has the support of the masses should be the real leader. Otherwise, a democracy wouldn’t be a success. In Karnataka, Yeddyurappa is the tallest leader in public life across the spectrum of parties; he has support of all sections of the society, all castes, farmers, Dalits and minorities. That is why he is confident of going alone and forming a new political party. He will win the confidence of the people.
Just as you have formed a political party and Yeddyurappa is expected to join it, BJP leaders like Uma Bharati, Kalyan Singh and Babulal Marandi had also taken similar steps. However, they didn’t succeed in the elections. What makes you think the KJP would succeed?
Please don’t compare all these people with Yeddyurappa; his is a different case. Yeddyurappa is not the leader of a particular section or a particular region; he is the true leader of the masses in Karnataka. And, he has a 40-year political career behind him. Yeddyurappa’s political career started with Bharatiya Jan Sangh. Later, he joined the Janata Party, and then the BJP. If Yeddyurappa was a leader without much support, the BJP leadership wouldn’t have bothered. The BJP is trying its best to retain him in the party for the sole reason that he is the tallest leader, a crowd-puller and one who secures votes.
Why have BJP leaders like Yeddyurappa and Vasundhara Raje threatened to quit the party? Why are senior state leaders annoyed with the party’s central leadership?
It is better I say less about the BJP’s affairs. It is an open secret. Everybody knows the BJP’s central leadership is thoroughly divided and corruption charges have been levelled against the party’s senior leaders. Because of the manner in which they have been treated, state leaders who have an influence on voters are annoyed. Vasundhara Raje has been ill-treated in so many ways. After losing the previous Assembly election in Rajasthan, the BJP took a long time to confirm she was leader of the opposition. Now, she wants someone of her choice to be appointed the state BJP president, something the central leadership is objecting to. That is probably why she is thinking of forming her own political party. This is the result of the mismanagement of affairs by the BJP’s central leadership.
The BJP has the support of about 121 members of the legislative Assembly (MLAs) in Karnataka. How stable is the state government? How many BJP MLAs would quit when Yeddyurappa resigns from the BJP?
A large section of the 121 BJP MLAs are supporters of Yeddyurappa. However, Yeddyurappa has declared even if he goes out of the BJP, he wouldn’t allow the government to fall. There are two reasons for this. First, the state is already in an election mode — Assembly elections are expected in April-May. If the government falls now, Assembly elections would be held as scheduled because the Election Commission of India would need at least three months to prepare for the elections. In the interim period, there would be President’s Rule. Nobody wants that sort of anarchy. Second, Yeddyurappa claims the current government came to power with his support and so, he doesn’t want to destabilise the government, especially since it doesn’t have much time left.
Yeddyurappa has said he made a mistake by resigning from the chief minister’s post; he should have asked for a fresh mandate. Do you agree with this, given you were closely associated with the decision-making process?
Of course! He, too, has clarified this. As a loyal party worker, to uphold respect for the party, he obeyed the central leadership. But when the central leadership failed to keep its promise, he realised he had made a mistake.
Yeddyurappa has blamed BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar and state party president K S Eshwarappa. Why is he annoyed with them?
Though these two leaders are very ambitious, they don’t have much support inside the party, nor do they have mass support. However, both want to become chief minister. Naturally, they have repeatedly created trouble to see Yeddyurappa is removed from the post of chief minister, hoping they would take over. But they failed. In fact, the first time Yeddyurappa had quit, Ananth Kumar kept Jagadish Shettar at the front. However, behind his back, he tried his best to take over as chief minister. But Yeddyurappa succeeded in making Sadananda Gowda the chief minister. The party’s central leaders present at the legislature party meeting realised Ananth Kumar didn’t have much support, even in the legislature party. It is very clear these two leaders still aspire to become chief minister, by hook or by crook. For this, they are using their influence on senior leaders of the party.
Though Yeddyurappa might quit the BJP, he would continue to be a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Do you expect some support for the KJP from the RSS?
The RSS is a non-political organisation. It has clarified it doesn’t have any political interest. RSS members, the swayamsevaks, are free to work for any political party. So, there is nothing wrong in swayamsevaks working for the KJP. But there should be no doubt our priority is to protect the rights and interests of the people of Karnataka.