For the record, the BJP is a supporter of Anna Hazare's campaign against corruption. But on the ground, life isn't so easy for the party.
Its most powerful leader, LK Advani, arrived in Bangalore on Sunday on the Karnataka lap of his yatra against corruption, but the reality is that many top leaders of his party, including former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, are languishing in jail on corruption charges.
Advani had no choice but to speak out against his own party leaders, but he did so in a muted manner, not mentioning Yeddyurappa, Janardhana Reddy, Katta Subramanya Naidu, or Krishnaiah Shetty, all of whom are behind bars. (Breaking news: Katta, arrested in a land scam case, has just been granted bail on health grounds). But the speech marks the breaking of the party's thunderous silence on venality and corruption within its own ranks.
Yeddyurappa brought into existence the first BJP government in the south, but is caught in a corruption case brought to light by a Lokayukta report. Illegal miners, led by Tourism Minister Janardhana Reddy, had virtually hijacked the BJP government, leaving its top leaders watching it all with mute helplessness. Advani is speaking out against the scandal months after it had claimed the careers of many robber-barons controlling his party.
'Good governance cannot coexist with corruption. I do not say this just for the Congress but for my party (BJP) also, as there can be no compromise on corruption,' Advani told about 5,000 people who braved rains to listen him in the muddy National College grounds in upscale south Bangalore.
Reiterating his firm stand against corruption in public life, Advani recalled telling the party's state leaders during his previous visit in April 2010 to the city that he would not tolerate corruption by anyone in the southern state where the party came to power for the first time in 2008.
The BJP is aware that the anti-corruption campaign of Anna Hazare and others is inspiring mass participation, and sees in them an opportunity to return to power in Delhi. As things would have it, Suresh Kalmadi, A Raja, Kanimozhi, and other luminaries of the ruling coalition are lodged in jail. The BJP is taking the high moral ground in the cash-for-votes case; it's argument is that whistleblowers have been jailed while the culprits are roaming free. All of this might have worked to the BJP's advantage if not for the greed and lack of integrity within.
Political observers give another spin to Advani breaking his silence. Ananth Kumar is considered Advani's man in Karnataka, and is a contender for the chief minister's post. Yeddyurappa's camp wasn't present at Advani's Sunday rally, and that could mean that Ananth Kumar's faction is on the ascendant.
Another take is that Yeddyurappa wasn't corrupt just for himself, but also for the party, sending money to its top leaders in Delhi. If Yeddyurappa finds sympathy among many in political circles, it is because they feel he has been left by his seniors, who benefited from his corruption, to fend for himself. Top lawyers, including Ram Jethmalani, have been fighting the case for Yeddyurappa's bail, but they haven't succeeded.