BJP's 'disciplined-party' plank goes for a six in southern foray

Bangalore, Dec 14 (IANS) The BJP's grand plan of emerging as a strong force in southern India is getting stymied by unending troubles in its ruling unit in Karnataka which have sent the oft-flaunted "disciplined-party" plank for a six.

Ever since it came to power in the state for the first time in May 2008, the party has been busy in balancing acts to save its governments - three in four years.

In what must be a record for any party, even the third government headed by Jagadish Shettar is tottering within six months of taking over from the D.V. Sadananda Gowda regime which lasted less than a year.

Its first chief minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa, lasted just over three years, with his rule marked by scores of scandals and frequent rebellions.

While he was troubled by the BJP's then money-bags, the mining-scam marred Reddy brothers of Bellary, Yeddyurappa is now on the verge of making Shettar his second victim.

Yeddyurappa brought down the Gowda government in July after installing it when he was forced to quit last July over mining bribery charges. He had then defeated Shettar's bid to become chief minister.

The fear of the Shettar government going out of office when assembly elections are due in less than six months is forcing the BJP to go slow on taking action against 14 of the party's 118 assembly members who have defied the threat of expulsion to back Yeddyurappa's new outfit, the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP).

The former chief minister quit the party Nov 30 to lead the KJP and pitch it as the BJP's main opponent in the assembly elections.

At least six ministers are also openly backing Yeddyurappa in his new venture.

These rebel legislators are playing on the BJP's desire to the save the Shettar government. They are threatening to resign if even a show cause notice is served on them seeking an explanation for aligning with the KJP.

Such a step could lead to the fall of the Shettar government as it will be reduced to a minority in the 225-member assembly.

The BJP's wait-and-watch policy has emboldened Yeddyurappa to mock his former party. "They know who are the ministers and legislators supporting me. Why cannot they just take action instead of issuing threats," he has been taunting the BJP since Dec 9, when he formally launched the KJP.

The BJP central leadership has to blame itself for allowing the situation to come to such a pathetic state in Karnataka as it papered over frequent rebellions in the state unit to ensure the party stays in power for the full term of five years.

Aiding the indiscipline in the Karnataka unit of the party was the belief among its leaders in the state that the central leadership is itself a divided house.

A coincidence is that now it is Yeddyurappa who is sulking while in May 2008 it was Shettar.

Shettar was upset that he was not taken in the cabinet by Yeddyurappa when the party captured power for the first time. He was forced to accept the speaker's post by the party central leadership.

Shettar was not made a minister then as Yeddyurappa apparently thought he was a rival.

By dilly-dallying when firm action was called for to rein in indiscipline, the BJP may realise too late that it is a loser on many counts - its claim to be a corruption-free, disciplined party is proving to be shallow, the government is almost on its way out before the assembly term and its bleak prospects of returning to power in the polls.

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted vs.karnic@ians.in)