File photo of BS Yeddyurappa, HD Kumaraswamy and Siddaramaiah. Photograph:( Others )
The crucial by-poll results are out in Karnataka and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) is rejoicing after bagging 12 out of the 15 constituencies that went into polls
The crucial by-poll results are out in Karnataka and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) is rejoicing after bagging 12 out of the 15 constituencies that went into polls. But is it really the victory of BJP, or the re-emergence of BS Yediyurappa, the tallest leader that the party has seen in the state?
Yediyurappa's political career has braved quite a few storms - right from never completing a full term as CM despite swearing-in four times, to being jailed on corruption charges, to walking out and forming his own party.
So while Yediyurappa is elated with the victory, is the BJP really happy with the southern power centre getting stronger? Highly unlikely. Senior BJP leaders, who have been party loyalists have expressed displeasure over the involvement of Yediyurappa's son Vijayendra in the functioning of the government.
The party high command was reportedly upset with the Chief Minister after an activist highlighted the rampant involvement of Vijayendra in bureaucratic transfers in the state. Now with the Vijayendra largely being credited for the party's first victory in the Vokkaliga belt of Mandya, the reins have further loosened.
Added to that there is now the issue of defectors being inducted into the 34-member cabinet that already has 18 members. With Yediyurappa saying he sees no problems in all 11 defectors, who won the elections, getting cabinet berths, the loyalists are further perturbed.
The victory has also strengthened the bargaining power of the ageing leader, who plans to finalise the cabinet allotments with the high command in the coming few days. With age not on his side, Yediyurappa is evidently grooming his son to take over the party after proving his ability to consolidate the crucial Lingayat votes. Can other powerful camps within the BJP fight the Yediyurappa power, when he has successfully secured people's mandate?
Let's now turn our eyes to the second biggest party in the house. Congress has shrunk from 78 seats in 2018 to 68 now. The one state that was offering hope to the beaten-down party in 2018, has fallen as well. Siddaramaiah, the Leader of Opposition and Legislature Party Chief has resigned from the position. Dinesh Gundurao, KPCC President, has also taken responsibility for the sad showing and has tendered his resignation. Who will fill Congress' leadership vacuum now?
DK Shivakumar has often positioned himself as the next leader of the Karnataka Congress, but with the ED baggage and multiple failures in the Vokkaliga strong belt, it is unlikely the party will let him take the lead. ''Congress needs an alternative narrative. They left it to Siddaramaiah this time too, and he was functioning with a rather old-style narrative. He did get what he wanted in the two constituencies that they won. He showed his dominance in the Kuruba community, but that is not enough to win a state election'', says Narendar Pani, a political analyst.
Then there is the biggest loser of the lot - Janata Dal (Secular). It was only a few months back that HD Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) held the position of the Chief Minister. Today the party has not won a single seat in the by-poll and has also conceded seats to the BJP in its backyard, Mandya.
''It is clear that they are out of touch even with the Vokkaliga community. They are still functioning in the old farmer-based approach. But many in Mandya are moving out of agriculture'', says Pani. Despite Kumaraswamy directly appealing to the caste in his election campaign, and not to mention the contentious farm loan waiver, JD(S) drew a blank these elections and has its numbers at 34 in the 223 member house. The party which rose to power on the Cauvery dispute bandwagon and promised to champion the cause of farmers has lost its steam. What they need now is a new approach to new issues that the electorate faces.