Just when things seemed to be settling down, the ruling BJP in Karnataka has its task cut out to keep its flock together as its own leaders are demanding an immediate cabinet reshuffle. With 15 months to go for the assembly elections and local elections before that including civic polls in Bengaluru, with the opposition Congress mounting a 'Reverse Operation Lotus the leadership of Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai is coming under the lens.
Bommai has declared that his maiden budget is going to be an election year budget. He stated that he has the challenge of presenting popular programmes as well as ensuring economic growth with the BJP legislators fuming over the cabinet not being expanded even as four posts are vacant. The dissent is much more among senior leaders who want a cabinet reshuffle.
The Congress in the state under the leadership of D.K. Shivakumar and Opposition leader Siddaramaiah is openly challenging the ruling BJP that many legislators including cabinet ministers are in touch with them. BJP leader Basavanagouda Patil Yatnal has warned that those who have joined the BJP and become ministers would tread the path of Uttar Pradesh former minister Swami Prasad Maurya, who had quit the cabinet position as well as the BJP and joined the Samajwadi Party.
G. H. Tippa Reddy, a five-time legislator from Chitradurga, three-time MLA Abhay Patil from Belagavi, former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa's blue eyed boy M.P. Renukacharya are vehemently demanding an immediate cabinet reshuffle and expansion. Though the party is considering the Gujarat model of a cabinet reshuffle where all the senior leaders were dropped and new faces were given opportunity, it won't be easy in Karnataka as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's face alone can't ensure victory.
The party also has the task of handling former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa who still remains a power centre in the state with no other leader in Karnataka having such a mass appeal. Bommai will have to go a long way in that direction.
Yediyurappa's son B.Y. Vijayendra, a vice-president in the party, has to be accommodated in the cabinet as well as given a ticket to contest in the upcoming elections. Sources close to Yediyurappa say that if Vijayendra is not given prominence in the party, it can impact political equations.
Sanganna Karadi, BJP MP from Koppal, told IANS that "CM Bommai can handle the dissidence within the party. Yediyurappa will be there as the backbone and with his guidance CM Bommai will be a good captain. Bommai will get a majority as he has given meaningful programmes of helping farmers' children get higher education under ‘Vidya Siri', increasing pensions for the helpless, Amruth schemes and the recent ‘Grama One' scheme. He has released Rs 2,938 crore additional grants for the Hyderabad-Karnataka region," he explained.
Bommai will also have to manage the demand for reservation by the Panchamasali sub-sect of the Lingayat community, reservation status under Scheduled Tribes by the Kuruba community and the demand of increasing the reservation quota of the Scheduled Tribes, as they will have a direct impact on the elections.
After getting mixed results in the bypolls in the Hangal and Sindhgi constituencies and narrowly missing a majority in the legislative council elections by one seat, Bommai will now have to strategise for ensuring victory in the crucial civic polls in Bengaluru. After completing 6 months in office, Bommai has pledged that victory is certain in the Bengaluru civic polls. Though the BJP has a good presence in the state capital, the internal strife could be the challenge. It is an open secret that Bommai has kept charge of the Bengaluru Urban district with himself, fearing a backlash.
Accused in the sex-CD case, former minister Ramesh Jarakiholi could be another challenge as any decision about him could impact the results in 18 assembly seats in Belagavi district and two parliamentary constituencies. The BJP has 13 MLAs from here.
Bommai has received appreciation for managing the Covid situation in the state well. After taking over as Chief Minister, at the peak of the second wave, his visits to all bordering districts, strict measures, aggressive persuasion for vaccination, management of the present third wave of Covid have earned him a good name.
His dream project of scholarships to students from the farming community has been well received.
Former Union Minister and BJP MP D.V. Sadananda Gowda told IANS that the calm demeanour of Bommai and his work during these six months has been liked by the public as well as party leaders. Groupism is decreasing gradually. Bommai has done a good job in mobilising resources, there is public acceptability and all this will help in the assembly elections. When asked about Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar coming together against the BJP, he stated that it is impossible for both the leaders to unite.
AICC spokesperson Brijesh Kalappa said that the Congress managed to win 80 seats and get 38 per cent of the votes in Karnataka. Now, Opposition leader Siddaramaiah and Congress State President D.K. Shivakumar are together. Senior leader M.B. Patil is being made the Chairman of the Campaign Committee. Mallikarjun Kharge is the Opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha and B.K. Hariprasad is being made Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council. "We will be able to get the majority this time," he claimed.
Kalappa added that Bommai is a seasoned politician. But the Hindutva plank won't work in Karnataka as it will not find acceptance with the people, he said.
Bommai seems to be pursuing a Hindutva agenda to ensure success in the state. Bommai comes from a socialist background. On his watch, the anti-conversion law has been passed in the assembly and the stage is all set for its implementation. He has made his intentions clear of bringing legislation on ‘Love Jihad' in the coming days. His government's decision to free temples from the clutches of the government has pleased the Sangh Parivar. However, experts opine that the Hindutva agenda alone cannot ensure victory in Karnataka and he has to balance between other factors as well.