Home / Politics / Policy /  Personality-driven parties fail to make a mark in Karnataka

Bengaluru: In a span of two days, Karnataka saw the birth of two new political parties, one headed by an actor and the other by an ex-cop, but the state that hosts India’s start-up capital has not been kind to those striking out on their own in politics.

On 31 October, Kannada movie actor Upendra launched Karnataka Prajnavanta Janata Paksha (KPJP). A day later, former Indian Police Service (IPS) official Anupama Shenoy launched Bharatiya Janashakti Congress (BJC). Both talk of large-scale political reform in the state which goes to assembly elections next year.

Created to fill the void left by larger parties, the new outfits are personality-driven rather than party-driven, analysts say following a trend seen mostly in neighbouring Tamil Nadu and (formerly undivided) Andhra Pradesh. But Karnataka has been unforgiving to these “political entrepreneurs" whose attempts have ended in political oblivion or, sometimes, a return to roots.

Analysts are already writing off both for their lack of a credible cause or support base.

“Karnataka politics is about coalition of local leadership and leaders. It is not normally personality-based, (but such start-up political parties) can throw up important coalition builders," Narendar Pani, political analyst and professor at the School of Social Sciences at Bengaluru’s National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) said.

Attempts by established politicians have also yielded similar results.

From Devaraj Urs, one of Karnataka’s most influential chief ministers to Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) B.S.Yeddyurappa, many politicians have tried to break out from their parties, only to return a few years later—unlike in neighbouring states where leaders have been successful in challenging national parties.

Harish Ramaswamy, political analyst and professor of political science at the Karnataka University, Dharwad said Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have been successful with personality-driven parties because of the presence of identity politics and parochial views compared to states like Karnataka and Kerala.

Yeddyurappa, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate for 2018, had left the saffron party and relaunched the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) just before the 2013 elections. KJP bagged six seats, but more importantly, his departure reduced the BJP’s seats from 110 in 2008 to 40 in 2013. The following year, he merged KJP with the BJP.

Former BJP minister B. Sriramulu floated the BSR Congress in 2011, only to return in 2014.

“When they fail, they would have to think if they want to continue with their party or political ambitions and they will join some or the other party," Ramaswamy said.

Rajkumar, Karnataka’s biggest movie star, who led the pro-Kannada agitation in early 1980s preferred to remain an influential ‘pressure group’ rather than foray into politics, analysts say.

Ramaswamy said actors like M.H. Ambareesh, Uma Shree and Divya Spandana (Ramya) among a select few have had fairly successful political careers as they were lateral entries, brought in to give representation to the fraternity.

But an attempt into enter politics itself erodes any fan or supporter base, said Sumant Raman, a Chennai-based political analyst.

Barring O. Panneerselvam and Edappadi K. Palaniswami, all chief ministers of Tamil Nadu including M.G. Ramachandran (MGR), J. Jayalalithaa, C.N. Annadurai and M. Karunanidhi for the last 50 years have been associated with the Tamil film industry, which may have encouraged noted actor Kamal Haasan to continue this tradition, analysts say.

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