Keep aside the cynical political observers; BS Yeddyurappa’s emotional pitch preceding his resignation as chief minister of Karnataka was sound politics and better television soap. The déjà vu moments reminding one of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s lamentations in 1996 on the fall of the first NDA government at the Centre on its 13th day — albeit with a more composed demeanour few could pull off like the poet-statesman — will not be lost on the voters of Karnataka who are sure to witness a government worse than that of the BJP in 2008-13 as well as that of the INC in 2013-18. The “coalition dharma”, as former prime minister Manmohan Singh used to put it, is but a euphemism for turning a blind eye to corruption. How the charges against HD Kumaraswamy are different from those against Yeddyurappa has been explained in the previous editorial, as has been the history of the INC’s untrustworthy behaviour as the senior partner to a government led by a junior ally. Never mind the fact that the INC secured a higher percentage of votes than the BJP; society has a more vivid recollection of the number of seats a party won, which is 78 against the BJP’s 104. The resignation of Yeddyurappa will hence garner public sympathy, standing him in good stead as a leader of Karnataka in the general election of the next year and in the next Assembly election, whenever that is held. Whether the BJP could have made it in the trust vote that was never conducted is now a hypothesis. For argument’s sake, if it were to be presumed that the party would have resorted to no foul means, the sceptics would still smell a rat. Therefore, rather than letting or making some MLAs cross over following their ‘conscience’ during the vote, it’s better to watch the INC-JD(S) coalition unravel from the opposition benches in the Vidhana Soudha.
If the BJP ever had a chance of winning Karnataka, it was not after the election results were declared. It was at the stage when Yeddyurappa had just been named as the chief ministerial candidate. Public perception matters here, too. The breed of noisy activists that was emerging on the national scene towards the end of the last decade had painted his character so black that no amount of exonerations and acquittals from the cases in courts helped the Lingayat leader undergo an image makeover. While his candidacy was announced well in advance, breaking the general discipline of the BJP as an organisation — with regard to the nuisance value he had demonstrated by claiming a chunk of the BJP votes in 2013 — the party should have gone all out with a public relations drive to clean Yeddyurappa’s image in the minds of the electorate. Instead, having ensured he would no longer sulk, the party leadership left him to fend for himself, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah rarely sharing the dais with him at the stage of the hustings. A better public impression of their chief ministerial candidate could, most probably, have more than made up the margin by which the party fell short of a majority in the House.
Of course, the target Yeddyurappa has set for himself — victory in all the 28 parliamentary constituencies in Karnataka the next year and at least 150 Vidhan Sabha seats in the next State election — is too ambitious. However, Modi is still the most formidable election-winning machine and there is no credible challenger to his charisma yet on the horizon. The BJP’s possible victory in the Lok Sabha election of 2019 will now be seen more through the lens of the superstition that the side that wins Karnataka loses the Centre and vice versa.