Political compromises in Karnataka before this year’s General Election
This year could well be the year of the tainted in Karnataka. With an eye on the General Election coming up, both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party inducted leaders with questionable credentials last week.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah inducted two tainted MLAs as ministers: DK Shivakumar faces charges relating to illegal mining, and R Roshan Baig has been indicted in an alleged land grabbing case. Shivakumar and Baig are longtime legislators and former ministers. The former is expected to draw in Vokkaliga votes, and the latter, minority votes.
The BJP welcomed its former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa by merging with his Karnataka Janata Paksha. Siddaramaiah, who took over as CM after the May 2013 Assembly polls, had promised clean governance after a BJP term ridden with scandals and corruption. He had successfully staved off pressure from the party old guard, and had, in fact, ejected Santosh Lad, a minister facing charges of illegal mining, in November.
Shivakumar and Baig’s induction has led to ignored MLAs petitioning Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh who was in Bangalore this week. Singh and Siddaramaiah defended their actions by stating the inducted ministers were only facing allegations and have not been charge-sheeted yet. “They are only private complaints with vested interests. Where is the chargesheet? Show me,” Siddaramaiah asked the media, in his characteristic belligerent style.
Shivakumar is a staunch supporter of Karnataka’s former Chief Minister and Union External Affairs Minister SM Krishna. He showed he cannot be ignored by pressuring the High Command to appoint him to a coordination panel keeping an eye on the CM headed by Singh. He also used his clout to get a Parliamentary ticket issued to his brother, a political non-entity, and made sure he won.
Yeddyurappa, who was asked by the BJP to step down as CM in May 2011 after allegations of favouring mining companies and for possessing disproportionate assets with the promise that he would be brought back, eventually walked out and formed his own party. He then vowed to teach his former party a lesson. The fledgling party won six seats and more importantly got 10 per cent of the total vote. As the Lingayat vote was divided between Yeddyurappa and the Congress, the BJP was relegated to third position and the Janata Dal-Secular emerged as the principal opposition , getting a few more votes than the saffron party. Now, the BJP, with 46 Assembly seats after the merger, has put forth its claim to be the principal opposition party. Yeddyurappa’s homecoming also realistically helps boost the BJP numbers in the forthcoming Lok Sabha, as the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, has embarked on a 272+ plan. Karnataka has 28 Lok Sabha seats and in 2009, the BJP had won 19, the Congress six and the JDS three. In 2013-end, the Congress won both bypolls by dethroning the JDS.
The Congress might have attacked the BJP on Yeddyurappa, but its own actions have undermined any such attack.
The Yeddyurappa episode has also led to the question of whether Bellary’s infamous Reddy brothers and their man Friday, B Sriramulu, who floated the BSR Congress and won four Assembly seats, will be welcomed back to the BJP fold.
As polls draw near, more compromises can be expected by these parties.