Wednesday, Jun 25, 2003
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By M. Madan Mohan
The efforts made to evolve a consensus have failed, with the ultimate choice narrowing down to B.S. Yediyurappa, MLC and former BJP State unit President, and Ananth Kumar, Union Minister for Urban Development.
This is despite the two rounds of consultations between the party's prominent functionaries and Bal Apte, national Vice-President of the party in charge of Karnataka. Mr. Apte had consultations in Bangalore and Hubli. In view of the failure to reach a consensus, the question is being remitted to the party high command, which may ultimately announce the name to coincide with the completion of organisational elections which are under way and are expected to be completed by August 15.
The opinion among the senior party functionaries is sharply divided between Mr. Yediyurappa and Mr. Kumar. "It would not have been difficult if one of them relented,'' an important party functionary told The Hindu.
The tussle between Mr. Yediyurappa and Mr. Kumar, who worked in tandem in the State for quite some time, has come as a surprise. There was a time when Mr. Yediyurappa, as the President of the State unit, and Mr. Kumar, as the General Secretary of the unit, were considered a team. The party's success and debacle were clearly attributed to their influence, which was discernible in major decisions and campaigns.
But for reasons that are not clear, Mr. Yediyurappa and Mr. Kumar started drifting away from each other, and the latter became a power centre in New Delhi for interaction between the party unit and the Central leadership. Mr. Yediyurappa, meanwhile, went back on his resolve not to enter the Legislature in an indirect election.
Caught between the two, Mr. Sedam found himself helpless in guiding the party in the byelections to the Assembly and in introducing dynamism into the party's functioning. With the antipathy between Mr. Yediyurappa and Mr. Kumar coming into the open, no one would like to assume the post of the State unit President and experience the same difficulties as Mr. Sedam.
Both Mr. Yediyurappa and Mr. Kumar have weaknesses which make them unsuitable to become the BJP chief in the State at this crucial juncture, when the party workers' morale has to be improved.
Mr. Yediyurappa's leadership has not brought the BJP any success. His estimates of the party's performance in the 1994 and 1999 Assembly elections were quite off the mark. How can Mr. Yediyurappa, under whose leadership the party faced two successive defeats, be trusted to lead the party again in the next elections? Although he has no compunctions in donning the mantle, others in the party have serious reservations.
With Mr. Kumar, the problem is that of acceptability. In a State which is getting used to caste-based politics, can the leadership be entrusted to a Brahmin such as Mr. Kumar? In a way, he may also be an unwilling candidate since he might have to give up ministership to return to the rough and tumble of State politics. If the BJP retains its present strength in the Assembly in the next elections, it will be considered quite creditable under the circumstances. Mr. Kumar also carries the odium of having been being autocratic and self-centred in dealing with the party's rank and file in the past.
That the party's choice is limited to only two persons exposes a chink in its armour.
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