The appointment of Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai as chairman of the election campaign committee as the state gears up for the assembly elections seems to be a balancing act by the BJP. As rumours were rife of growing discontent among a section of senior BJP leaders because of the elevation and prominence given to veteran leader BS Yediyurappa, the saffron party tried to strike a caste and power balance while drawing up the list.
Bommai, who belongs to the Lingayat community, has been named chairman of the election campaign committee while union minister of state Shobha Karandlaje, a Vokkaliga, has been made the head of the election management committee. This decision shows the BJP trying to strike a balance between two major communities in the state ahead of the polls.
Karandlaje is named in both committees, making it official that her role in state politics will be a bigger one as the elections near. She could also be the chief ministerial candidate, said top BJP sources.
Despite announcing his retirement from electoral politics, Yediyurappa had said he will “till his last breath work for the BJP and its success”. With the Bommai-led state government being attacked on several fronts by the opposition, including allegations of corruption and misgovernance, the BJP central leadership took a conscious decision to give Yediyurappa a more prominent role in the elections to ensure a higher chance of winnability.
Sources in the BJP told News18 that the news of elevating BSY to the core election campaign team had ruffled some feathers – senior leaders like V Somanna and Basanagouda Patil Yatnal had expressed their apprehension.
“After Amit Shah made an open appeal asking voters to trust PM (Narendra) Modi and BSY one more time and give the BJP another chance, the way PM Modi acknowledged and participated in the programme in Shivamogga caused concern among a certain section of BJP leaders at loggerheads with BSY,” said a senior state BJP leader.
As the demands of the Lingayat community for a separate religious tag and increased reservation remain unfulfilled, the BJP also fears a backlash thus forcing the party to rely on BSY’s influence. Further, the fear of an electoral setback also forced the party to bring BSY back to the centrestage. It has informally been projecting him as the one leading the electoral campaign.
A recent visit by Arun Singh, BJP’s national general secretary in charge of Karnataka, and union minister Dharmendra Pradhan was seen as a move to try and calm down the camp opposed to BSY.
“When a party does not officially declare a chief ministerial candidate, making the incumbent chief minister the chairman of the election campaign committee is like a consolation prize,” said political analyst Sandeep Shastri on the development.
Shastri questioned if it was enough to make Yediyurappa a member of the campaign committee, especially a man of his stature and one who has been a mentor.
“Does that fit and suit his stature? Maybe he will be designated as a star campaigner of the party later. It seems to be like a catch-all committee – one that takes care of all interests and does not leave out any faction or key player. But are you doing justice to the role you expect a former CM to play is the question to be asked,” Shastri pointed out.
Yediyurappa has promised the central leadership that though he has retired from active politics, he will work towards bringing the BJP back to power – an aspect that has eluded the party to date. Shastri questioned what role the former CM will be given to achieve this.
“What would the BJP need to do to satisfy him (BSY) to play his role with full gusto? What would be the prize that the party has promised him that will help him fulfil the promise he has made with full enthusiasm?” asked Shastri, adding that the catch lay in the fact that BSY too will have expectations from the BJP, including accommodating his strong supporters and a say in ticket distribution.
Another Bengaluru-based political analyst, SA Hemanth, found nominating Bommai as the election campaign chief absurd.
“The BJP has said it will fight the election under the leadership of Bommai. A campaign chief usually seeks votes from people in favour of the CM candidate. Even when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the PM candidate, LK Advani was appointed election campaign committee chairman. Advani sought votes for the BJP under the leadership of Vajpayee. In this context, will Bommai seek votes for himself? That’s why it’s absurd,” Hemanth said.
The BJP and Yediyurappa have said the BJP LP will decide who will be CM if the party wins the election, so making Bommai chairman does not seem right, he added.
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