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The Shah Formula For Karnataka

Dub the Chief Minister “anti-Hindu” says the BJP President, falling back on a tried and tested formula, months ahead of the Assembly polls
By Imran Qureshi

In the wake of internal bickering within the Karnataka unit of the party, BJP president Amit Shah has set a couple of simple tasks for the state leaders to accomplish. The most important among them is to dub the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government as “anti-Hindu.”

This assignment to party leaders is an old strategy that Shah had himself detailed during the first set of meetings he had in Bengaluru with party legislators and leaders in August 2017.

Some of his allegations then had led to many eyebrows being raised particularly on the question of communal disharmony that he had accused the Siddaramaiah government of, because the record was on this front, was much better than it has been made out to be since then.

His review meeting on Sunday was also marked by leaders being pulled up with the threat that he would himself visit each district to tackle issues. His threat came in the context of legislators not being up to the mark in their responses on issues within each constituency. Clearly, the undercover team of party president has been doing its job in keeping tabs on their Karnataka unit.

In August last, Shah had pointed out that the Siddaramaiah government was the most corrupt, indulged in appeasement politics that led to communal disharmony, failed to assuage farmers issues and failed to utilise development funds from the Centre.

Four months later and weeks after the Parivarthana Yatra in which its chief ministerial candidate, BS Yeddyurappa, was asked to tour the state, the party leadership appears to have changed its tack slightly. “Leaders don’t seem to be accompanying Yeddyurappa as they should have,” said a supporter of Yeddyurappa, on condition of anonymity.

This is promptly countered by the others with the counter-charge that Yeddyurappa had sidelined all those who are supporters of Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Ananth Kumar. “Yeddyurappa has not given any work to them. He has even gone to the extent of announcing candidates in some places even before the party could decide,” said a BJP leader opposed to Yeddyurappa.

It is well known in party circles that those who had gone with Yeddyurappa when he launched the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) after he was removed from chief ministership on corruption charges, are preferred by the state party president over others.

“Yeddyurappa is an emotional person. He is known to be authoritarian in several ways. It is because he had succeeded in the past that the Modi-Shah combine got him back into the party. So, why should anyone complain?” asked one of Yeddyurappa’s associates.

Yeddyurappa’s yatra had attracted crowds but his effort to get all sections of the people with him, as he did when he was heading the KJP, by adopting the development plank has been thwarted by the actions of party leaders like the Mysuru Lok Sabha MP, Pratap Simha, and the Union Minister of State for Skill Development Anant Kumar Hegde.

Both Simha and Hegde have adopted stances that appear more in line with what Shah has been accusing the Siddaramaiah government about – of the Chief Minister being “anti-Hindu”.

“We are aware that the effort is to create polarisation but there was no real need for anyone to create a law and order situation in Honnavar (Uttara Kannada district),’’ said an elderly party worker in Honnavar, again, on condition of anonymity.

Union Minister Ananth Kumar told reporters in Bengaluru that Shah had given pointers to launch the campaign against the Congress government. “Siddaramaiah’s government is anti-Hindu and all his policies are against the majority community Hindus. This has impacted communal harmony,’’ Ananth Kumar said with a silent Yeddyurappa sitting beside him at the press conference.

Said a Congress leader, who did not want to be named – “They raised the issue of Mahadayi to tell people in North Karnataka that they are getting water. When it boomeranged, they are again getting back to their communal agenda. But people of Karnataka are not the same as Uttar Pradesh or Gujarat to be swayed.”

Shah had chaired a meeting with Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and Yeddyurappa to ensure that Goa agreed for talks with Karnataka on releasing water for drinking water purposes. But, the plan got derailed because the alliance partner of Parrikar objected to Goa agreeing for talks. In short, the issue boomeranged on the BJP leadership.

Elections to the Karnataka assembly are due some four months away. Until then, there are bound to be many charges and counter-charges between the two parties. As also within the BJP itself.

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