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With Yeddyurappa back, BJP eyes big gains in Karnataka

With Yeddyurappa back, BJP eyes big gains in Karnataka

Yeddyurappa's homecoming was expected after his secret talks with the Congress leadership in New Delhi failed to yield desired results.

Bangalore: With their 'trump card' BS Yeddyurappa back in the party after 13 months, smiles are back on the faces of BJP workers and many leaders in Karnataka. The return of BS Yeddyurappa, who left the 'mother' party to 'teach' a lesson for unceremoniously removing him from the post of chief minister in mid-2011, has made a large section of the saffron party happy.

Yeddyurappa's homecoming was expected after his secret talks with the Congress leadership in New Delhi failed to yield desired results. However, a faction in the BJP led by its national general secretary Ananth Kumar tried to block his re-entry into the party causing some anxiety among Yeddyurappa backers.

But, the RSS approved his return and even facilitated a talk between him and the BJP national president Rajnath Singh at the RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale's native place in Shimoga district in the last week of December. According to insiders, a deal was clinched there. BJP PM nominee Narendra Modi also played a major role in bringing him back into the party. Modi hopes that Yeddyurappa can get him at least 15 - 18 Lok Sabha seats from Karnataka in the coming general elections.

LK Advani-led faction, which was opposing his return, had to swallow its pride and allow his homecoming.

Even though both the BJP and Yeddyurappa maintain that his return is unconditional, the people close to him reveal that the party has promised him a cabinet minister post at the Centre, if the NDA is voted back to power. Some of his backers believe that Yeddyurappa will accept the leader of the opposition post instead of going to the national capital. Once his party, the KJP, merges with the BJP, it will automatically becomes the main opposition party in the Karnataka Assembly. Currently the JDS is the main opposition party.

There are even talks of Yeddyurappa contesting from his hometown Shimoga in the Lok Sabha polls. Yeddyurappa is denying these reports and maintains that the only reason he returned to BJP is to make his friend Narendra Modi the next Prime Minister.

Speaking to a correspondent over the phone he said, "I have no desire for any post. I want Modi to become the next PM to save the country from the Congress."

Yeddyurappa's return to the BJP has caused a mild panic in the ruling Congress in the state. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is facing a strong internal rebellion. He is even being seen as an anti-upper caste leader. The two major upper castes (Lingayats and Vokkaligas) put together have 30 per cent of the total votes in the state. While Yeddyurappa is the top most leader of the Lingayats with 18 per cent vote share, the Vokkaligas with 12 per cent vote share mainly with the Gowdas of JDS.

According to the statistics available, about 40 per cent Lingayats sided with the Congress during assembly elections held in last May. Yeddyurappa's KJP got a major chunk of Lingayat votes. Its total vote share was 10 per cent in the assembly polls.

The BJP is eyeing this 10 per cent vote in the Lok Sabha polls. Moreover, the BJP is also getting a tried and tested face to lead the campaign across the state in Yeddyurappa. He will most certainly lead a high decibel BJP campaign against the ruling Congress in the state. Siddaramaiah and Yeddyurappa also share a stormy relationship and often attack each other during their public meetings.

The Congress now wants to expose the hypocrisy of the BJP. The party leaders want to highlight the corruption charges against Yedyurappa, the only Karnataka chief minister who went to jail on graft charges. They feel that Yeddyurappa's return would be counterproductive for the BJP. They also hope that it will blunt Narendra Modi's campaign against Congress' corruption.

Yeddyurappa backers in the BJP argue that he went to jail as a part of political conspiracy and it will have no impact on the elections. They cite the example of his 6 months old KJP getting 10per cent votes in Assembly polls.

The morale among the Congress workers is not high in Karnataka. Many of them feel that the Siddaramaiah government is not doing anything for them. The disgruntled leaders are also not ready to campaign for the party. They blame Siddaramaiah's one-upmanship and a coterie around him for the current mess.

How much impact will Yeddyurappa have on the outcome of the Lok Sabha polls? Only the time will tell. If he succeeds, there will be no looking back for him. If he fails, it will be the end of his political career.
first published:January 09, 2014, 10:58 IST