The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is witnessing mounting resentment among party leaders in Karnataka over its decision to field disqualified lawmakers for the forthcoming bypolls.
Irrespective of the outcome of the December bypolls, the hardline approach taken against dissenting voices by chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa could have long-term ramifications for a party that derives its strength from grassroots workers, said analysts and senior BJP leaders.
The willingness to overlook the interests of party workers is not only increasing the divide between the old and the new guard in Karnataka BJP, but may also prompt defections.
“We have problems in Hosakote and Athani. Most other places things have more or less been settled," said a BJP office bearer, requesting anonymity.
Yediyurappa’s threat to expel local and state level leaders, including Sharath Kumar Bache Gowda, who is contesting as an independent against the BJP’s official candidate N. Nagaraju (M.T.B), has increased the risk of other workers deserting the party before the polls.
In the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), workers had drifted away towards the BJP. Subsequently, the saffron party was successful in bringing down the coalition government headed by H.D. Kumaraswamy with the help of the dissenters, and stake claim to power. Now, growing dissent among party cadres is likely to benefit the Opposition in recovering lost ground, said analysts and party workers.
A section within the state BJP has a more sympathetic approach towards those who feel that they have been wronged to “placate outsiders".
Analysts and party leaders said that dissent will only add to the existing divide between Yediyurappa, who is slowly losing his popularity and influence among party workers, and leaders who take direct orders from national party president Amit Shah and general secretary (organization) B.L. Santosh.
Narendar Pani, political analyst and faculty, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), said the BJP cannot contain defections because its choice of candidates include “imports" from the Congress and JD(S). “BJP can’t be seen leading a campaign against defection," he added.
Local leaders in other bypoll-bound constituencies said dissent was widespread and threats to expel workers will only lead to mass protests, and defections.
Yediyurappa’s attempts to pacify ticket aspirants with plum posts to buy their silence and cooperation has not really trickled down to the cadre, leaving the party vulnerable.
In fact, the BJP had capitalized on the growing dissent among workers of traditional rivals—the Congress and the JD(S)—to come to power. Now, by accommodating those very leaders, the party leadership maybe risking its own survival.