Former chief minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state unit president B.S.Yeddyurappa, who turned 76 on Wednesday, remains the only face of his party in Karnataka.
Credited with establishing the BJP as a strong political force in Karnataka, Yeddyurappa’s reign and style of functioning have, however, become one of the biggest challenges for the party, and its plans to include young faces.
The situation is no different for the Congress. The grand old party, which has been forced to rely heavily on a few leaders, has witnessed a rise in internal clashes.
The lack of a succession plan or a second line of leadership have led to open display of dissent within the ranks of both national parties, and may dent their chances in the April-May parliamentary elections.
“After Lok Sabha elections, there will be a lot of changes both in terms of organization as well as people," said a senior BJP office bearer, requesting anonymity.
The BJP is yet to find a suitable replacement for Yeddyurappa, its only mass leader. And, replacing him at this juncture would result in heavy losses, as was the case in 2013, when it was reduced to just 40 seats from 110 in 2008.
The Congress is also being forced to rally behind Siddaramaiah, who is accused of creating unrest between coalition partners—Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S)—and was held responsible for rising dissent within the party ranks.
Rising instances of dissent and faction wars within the Congress have, in fact, threatened the stability of the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government.
The stiff resistance from the old guard, who fear being replaced by younger leaders, is compounding problems for both political parties.
Narendar Pani, political analyst and faculty at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), said it was a challenge to nurture a new leadership without alienating the old.
While power struggles are common across political parties, the struggle in Karnataka has been particularly alarming for the two parties. The Congress, however, claims it is in a much better position than its opponent. “All parties are now a combination of loose groups," A.Narayana, political analyst and faculty, Azim Premji University, said.
There’s no respite for the former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda-led JD(S) as well, though it is better positioned to deal with the situation. A succession plan may, however, face stiff opposition from within the family. Prajwal Revanna, the son of Kumaraswamy’s brother H.D. Revanna, is looking to contest from the Hassan Lok Sabha seat, which he hopes, will propel him to become Gowda’s political heir. However, Kumaraswamy is pushing his actor son, Nikhil Kumar, into politics to have greater control over the party.