Siddaramaiah's insistence on a second seat cannot but be based on the seasoned campaigner's knowledge of his own home constituency. It's the great gamble. Insiders say that he is livid no one alerted him to Vijayendra's plans on standing from Varuna that may have taken seed during the BSY scion's visit to Mysuru three months ago after the panchayat elections went in the BJP's favour, and panchayat leaders advised Vijayendra to stand from Varuna
In May of 2008, with Operation Kamala in full bloom and the saffron cowboys from Ballari lassoing one legislator after another to up the numbers and form a BJP government on its own in this OK corral, I watched open-mouthed as the most talked about man in Karnataka, Gali Janardhan Reddy, walked in, unannounced, through the doors of B.S. Yeddyurappa's official residence.
Open-mouthed? Yes.! Jaw dropping further when, instead of the younger man falling at the newly inducted chief minister's feet, the opposite happened! That the Lok Ayukta report would subsequently nail the Ballari mine baron, and send the Reddy moneybags to jail, bringing the first BJP government in the state to its knees in 2011 as it turned into the single biggest corruption scandal in the history of the state, a scandal on the back of which present Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah rode to power two years later, is all now part of political folklore. So my question is this - given the fact that the Congress has already made Mr.Yeddyurappa's jail term ( he was acquitted) and the Ballari iron ore mine scandal, one of its major poll planks, why would the BJP give the mine baron such free rein again?
Ten long years after Operation Kamala, and less than 21 days to go before what promises to be a nail-biting finish on May 12, and all eyes distracted by the white noise generated by the Chief Minister as he made a strategic pitch for the second seat of Badami - while making it seem as if the public clamour was coming from Bagalkot and Vijayapura and Belagavi - the BJP leader and his old comrade in arms Janardhan Reddy shared the dais in Molakalmuru on Saturday. And this time, it was an obsequious Janardhan Reddy who fell at BSY's feet! The very same man that BJP president Amit Shah had balefully dismissed as having nothing to do with the party. Clearly, that no longer holds true. If it ever did! The chief of the Reddy clan, unable to legally set foot in his hometown of Ballari has got more than a leg in, into the BJP. An indication of his clout? The fact that he's brought not one but both his brothers in as candidates. He still calls the shots, in the more than a dozen constituencies that abut Ballari and Chitradurga, through the popular Nayaka leader and proxy B. Sreeramulu who is standing from Molakalmuru, rather than Ballari where the tribal leader has a following.
Clearly, the Reddy brothers, Mr Shah's comments notwithstanding, are back! Public perception aside, the BJP's core voter is unlikely to switch sides over a corruption slur. The Lingayat community still sees BSY as their poster boy. Party cadres and RSS workers have been mobilised across the state. But for Shah to pull the rug from under Siddu and plant a saffron flag in this Kannadanadu, he needs to rope together all the BJP leaders, all working at cross-purposes.
Their unspoken rivalry is part of the reason the BJP hasn't been able to name candidates for six seats in Bengaluru City where they still have enormous goodwill. Or should that be 'did'? The BJP has goofed up by naming one Bunt after another in a coastal Karnataka that was ripe for a saffron makeover. But it's the rivalry within that has derailed Yeddyurappa's plans to pull off his son B.S. Vijayendra's candidature in Varuna. And for that matter, land his close aide Shobha Karandlaje the Yashwantpur seat. He was able to get every other candidate he pushed for, even loyalists from his breakaway Karnataka Janata Paksha.
In fact, Shobha may have simply been outplayed. In the hope that they would see her as a selfless worker, who put the party first, she sent a letter to the BJP top brass, stating that she would do exactly what the party wanted her to do and that she herself did not want a ticket. In reality, she did, of course. If Yeddyurappa does pull off the numbers to form a government, Ms. Karandlaje does not want to be sitting in Delhi! Except, that's exactly where the other BJP stalwarts want her to be!
With Vijayendra, Yeddyurappa's error may have been in not pushing the matter with either Amit Shah or Muralidhar Rao or anyone in the RSS, in the belief that his word on candidates should be taken as final.
As for the noise about who the BJP will finally field to defeat Siddaramaiah, in Badami, one young man with an inside track recounted how Amit Shah was talking of "sacrificing" Yeddyurappa by fielding him as the Lingayat face to knock out Siddaramaiah; Or, Sreeramulu as the ST icon to counter Siddaramaiah's call on Kuruba fealty; Or, someone else entirely!
Has it not struck either party, that while neither the BJP nor the JD(S) has held back on saying that the CM was only standing from two seats because he wasn't confident he would win in Chamundeswari (btw, he isn't), what does it say about Mr H.D. Kumaraswamy who is standing from Ramanagara and Chennapatna, and if BSY or Sriramulu stand from Badami as well as their own seats!
Siddaramaiah's insistence on a second seat cannot but be based on the seasoned campaigner's knowledge of his own home constituency. It's the great gamble. Insiders say that he is livid no one alerted him to Vijayendra's plans on standing from Varuna that may have taken seed during the BSY scion's visit to Mysuru three months ago after the panchayat elections went in the BJP's favour, and panchayat leaders advised Vijayendra to stand from Varuna.
Those present at a meeting a few days ago with the CM in Mysuru say he was even angrier when he learnt that a senior Congressman was pumping money into Chamundeswari to ensure his defeat, and that the BJP had picked a Brahmin whom nobody had heard of as their candidate so that the JD(S) candidate would be a shoo-in. Shah has told the BJP that their primary target is Siddaramaiah. The JD(S), no different, just with a dash more vitriol. As it is, within the Congress. As he drives the campaign with a freer hand than any given to any Congress chief minister before him, allowed to fight from two seats which has always been a Congress no-no, and canvass from a seat in the north as well as the south which gives him a pan-Karnataka footprint, his rivals can only sharpen their knives.
The BJP, with its war rooms and its surveys done every three to four days, hasn't yet lined up all its troops, positioned its firepower. But it will, once the general, Prime Minister Modi, the ultimate campaigner, who with over 16 rallies across the state pulls out one rabbit after another. And draws blood. The Congress, one hears, has gained access to the latest inside survey by the BJP that showed that its popularity graph which had dipped to 70 had risen to 110 seats and the Congress, undone by the Lingayat consolidation and united front in the north, may only hit 90. For Siddaramaiah to bring the numbers back up, he needs to ensure that the Badami residents that gathered around him shouting 'Banni, banni saar' put their money where their mouth is . Starting Tuesday April 24, 3 pm when every man, jack will know who he is up against.