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Intensifying infighting threatens to derail BJP's double engine push


Bengaluru, March 19
The ruling BJP which is going to the assembly elections without projecting the CM's face for the first time in Karnataka is finding infighting to be the major roadblock in its mission to return to power in one of the most important and prosperous states.

Karnataka is considered the gateway to south India for the saffron party. Former chief minister and Lingayat strongman B.S. Yediyurappa had led the party and the party went to the polls projecting him as the CM candidate. When Yediyurappa formed a new party in 2013, the BJP had faced a humiliating defeat.

In the 2019 polls, though the BJP emerged as the party with a majority, it had to capture power through "Operation Lotus". In a changed scenario, Yediyurappa was asked to step down and as per his wish and the consent of the Sangh Parivar, Basavaraj Bommai was made the CM.

Bommai began well and Union Home Minister Amit Shah declared that the upcoming assembly elections would be fought under his leadership. Party state in-charge Arun Singh and other senior leaders also vouched for Bommai.

However, former CM Jagadish Shettar refused to be part of the cabinet, maintaining that Bommai is junior to him. Slowly, the state leaders asserted themselves and demanded that the upcoming assembly elections should be fought under a collective leadership.

Meanwhile, Bommai failed to emerge as a mass leader and on the eve of the polls, the party as well as Bommai are relying more on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's charisma and performance to work for the party in Karnataka.

The party, which had snubbed 80-year-old Yediyurappa until recently, has gone back to him. PM Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh are declaring publicly that the next government would be formed as per the wishes of Yediyurappa.

After this, the party had gained momentum in the state with a campaign blitzkrieg through public rallies and roadshows by Modi and Amit Shah.

Their efforts have left the opposition leaders fuming as the Congress could only rope in Priyanka Gandhi Vadra once and Rahul Gandhi is visiting the next week. Modi has visited the state five times already in the recent past and his programme is lined up for the coming days.

Karnataka Congress president D.K. Shivakumar called PM Modi a poll agent. Opposition leader Siddaramaiah questioned whether Modi or Amit Shah are going to become the CM of Karnataka? JD (S) leader and former CM H.D. Kumaraswamy maintained that no one can change the mindset of the people of south Karnataka.

At a time when the opposition's fears were obvious, the saffron party suffered a jolt with its MLA Madal Virupakshappa becoming the prime accused in a bribe for tender scam. His son was caught red-handed while accepting Rs 40 lakh cash at his office. The drama that followed this dented the image of the party.

At the same time, infighting within the party came to the fore, threatening to impact the election results. Minister for Housing V. Somanna raised the banner of revolt by skipping the inauguration of the Vijay Sankalp Yatra attended by the party national president J.P. Nadda.

Strong rumours circulated in the political circles that he would join the Congress party. However, things seem to be settling down with Somanna meeting Amit Shah in New Delhi. Somanna is participating in the party programme of inaugurating the 108-feet tall Male Mahadeshwara statue at the Male Mahadeshwara Hills in Chamarajanagar district.

Another minister K. C. Narayana Gowda, who joined the BJP through 'Operation Lotus', is all set to switch to the Congress. He was the only legislator from Mandya district, considered as the bastion of the JD (S) and Vokkaliga heartland. Amit Shah was keen on winning seats from south Karnataka especially from Mandya. The development is seen as a setback to the party's efforts.

Four-time MLC Puttanna who joined the BJP recently left and joined the Congress. Former MLC Mohan Limbikai, a staunch supporter of Yediyurappa, went to the Congress. H.D. Tammaiah, a prominent leader from Chikkamagaluru district, joined the Congress and it is regarded as a setback for BJP MLA and national general secretary C.T. Ravi.

C. T. Ravi had challenged former CM Yediyurappa by stating that he can't announce a ticket for his son and there is no provision in the BJP for a kitchen cabinet. The statement had come when the party was going before the people assuring them that the party would respect him. Sources in the BJP claim that Ravi had been asked by the high command not to issue any damaging statements.

B.Y. Vijayendra, the son of Yediyurappa, has issued a warning that people who target his father would repent and his father's silence should not be taken as a sign of weakness. Bommai has assured a ticket for Vijayendra by stating that the people of Shikaripura should support him like they did Yediyurappa.

BJP insiders claim that once the tickets are announced in the Congress party, the dissidence would come out in the open. As of now, the BJP will have to make an all out effort again to create a wave as they did in the last couple of months.