Karnataka issue fuels anti-BJP anger across party lines in southern states
Bengaluru: Reacting to governor Ramakrishna Rao dismissing Kerala’s first government under communist chief minister E.M.S. Namboodiripad in 1959 in a controversial manner, Tamil Nadu’s Dravidian leader C.N. Annadurai, known for his criticism of then Congress government at the centre, said, “Atukku thaadiyum, naatukku governorum thevai illa (A goat doesn’t require a beard nor a state its governor).”
Six decades later, the bonhomie between southern states against a party at the centre seems to be returning. This comes in the backdrop of Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) B. S. Yeddyurappa being sworn in as chief minister of Karnataka on Thursday, after governor Vajubhai Vala gave him the first preference to take power despite being short of eight MLAs for a revised simple majority of 112 seats.
His opposition Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), who have a combined tally of 117 seats that together surpasses that of BJP, are getting support from parties in the southern states, including from Kerala’s ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM leaders who are ironically fighting Congress as the main opposition.
Kerala’s CPM chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and finance minister Thomas Isaac have tweeted their criticism of Yeddyurappa’s selection as chief minister.
“It is a butchering of democracy,” said CPM Kerala secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on Thursday, reacting to Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in ceremony in the morning, according to local reports.
In Tamil Nadu, opposition leader M.K. Stalin echoed similar sentiments. “The Karnataka governor’s hasty invitation to the BJP to form the government despite the majority of MLAs of INC-JD(S)-BSP forming a post-poll alliance is arbitrary and unconstitutional. Such a move will only serve to enable horse-trading and destroy our democratic foundations,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, who had, in fact, asked Karnataka’s voters to reject the BJP in the election, has extended his support to Congress-JD(S) claim to power. He recently pulled out of a local alliance with the BJP, in response to the centre’s failure to fulfil a special category status for Andhra Pradesh.
Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has also reportedly supported the Congress-JD(S), though the Congress is his main local opposition.
The developments are important as they indicate a consolidation of parties on an anti-BJP plank ahead of general election in 2019. Excluding Karnataka, where how long it will last in power is uncertain, the BJP is in opposition in all states in the south. The stirring up of anti-BJP sentiments by politicians cutting across party flags may come as a roadblock for their improvement in the south, something crucial for the BJP to increase its footprint nationally.
Given the warm response from the communists, the Congress-JD(S) alliance has decided to shift their MLAs to Kerala, afraid of the BJP poaching their legislators ahead of an upcoming show of strength in the floor of Karnataka assembly.
And it may not be just the backwaters and lagoons that are awaiting the MLAs.
“We are planning to organize a big rally in Kerala against the BJP’s moves,” said senior CPM leader S. Ramachandra Pillai over the phone.
Yunus Lasania from Hyderabad contributed to this story.
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