Bangalore: The BJP
in power in a south Indian state may well end up as a one-time
affair as the party was routed in the just-concluded Karnataka
municipal polls that came two months ahead of the assembly
The Bharatiya Janata Party, generally perceived to enjoy large
support in urban areas, lost heavily in the March 7 polls for the
207 urban local bodies (ULBs). The BJP's performance this time,
when it is in power for the first time in the state, was worse
than the last ULB elections in 2007, a clear reflection of the
disenchantment of urban voters with the party.
The BJP state leaders have blamed lack of unity and formation of
two parties by two former BJP men - the party's first chief
minister in the state B.S. Yeddyurappa and former minister B.
Sriramulu - for the poor show.
However, apart from statements that the party is capable of taking
"corrective measures" to win the assembly polls, neither the state
nor the central leaders of the party have given any indication of
what plans they have to retain power.
The defeat in the ULB polls is unlikely to bring any unity as the
party performed poorly on the home turf of most of the state
leaders - Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, his predecessor D.V.
Sadananda Gowda, state unit president K.S. Eshwarappa and strong
contenders for his post and Lok Sabha members Pralhad Joshi and
Nalin Kumar Kateel.
Gowda and Kateel are from coastal Karnataka, Joshi is from
Shettar's home district of Dharwad in north Karnataka and
Eshwarappa is from central Karnataka district of Shimoga, which is
also Yeddyurappa's political base.
The BJP's problems are compounded by the fact that it does not
have a leader either at the state or central level with an
Whatever little good the party has done has been overshadowed by
corruption scandals during Yeddyurappa's 2008-2011 tenure, several
rebellions and frequent changes of chief ministers.
Shettar is the party's third chief minister. He took over from
Gowda last July. Gowda succeeded Yeddyurappa in August 2011 and
lasted 11 months.
The party's image has also been battered by the excesses of
right-wing Hindu activists, particularly in its coastal Karnataka
The most notorious incident was the brutal attack by Sri Rama Sene
(Army of Lord Rama) men on a group of women in a pub in Mangalore,
the main town along the coast, about 350km from Bangalore, in
The result was the BJP lost heavily in the ULB polls in the
coastal area, despite a vigorous campaign by Gowda and Kateel.
With Yeddyurappa making the BJP's defeat his main goal, the
party's problems continue to grow.
He and his supporters, who are also former BJP men, are painting
the party black. They are giving the impression to the voters that
BJP leaders at the national level are not trustworthy and the RSS
(Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh) claims of non-interference in the
BJP is all hogwash.
All these problems are making it difficult for the BJP to firm up
any clear strategy as the party has to not only counter them but
convince the voters that it will not allow recurrence of scandals
The BJP's track record in Karnataka since it came to power for the
first time in May 2008 indicates it is incapable of clear and firm
decisions, hardly a character that can regain the confidence of
voters to give the party another term.
(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at email@example.com)