By Vijaykumar Patil
Aug.29, 2017- The month of February, this year, took off on a sudden and unexpected yet, a politically vibrant note with all eyes cutting across party lines being set on Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna following explicit indications of his joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The 85 years politician had left the Congress where he served and grew into one of the tallest leaders during his long stint of over 46 years in the party only a couple of weeks ago then. The former Chief Minister of Karnataka (1999-2004), who also served as Governor of Maharashtra and had a stint as Minister for External Affairs in the Congress-led UPA government under former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, returned to Karnataka to play an active role in his home State, quit Congress as he found himself being ignored and that he was no more required in the party.
After keeping speculations of joining BJP rife for few weeks, he finally joined hands with the saffron party on March 22, in presence of BJP’s national president Amit Shah and other top ranking leaders from the State. The development led to further speculations indicating of large-scale exodus from Congress, thanks to some of his staunch followers expressing solidarity with him and trying their best to reconsider his decision on joining the BJP and returning to the Congress fold in vain. But, let alone an exodus, even his staunch followers like Energy Minister D.K. Shivkumar and former minister Prakash B. Hukkeri, MP (Chikodi of Belagavi district) in North Karnataka chose not to follow the suit and remained with the Congress. Considering that Mr.Krishna belonged to Vokkaliga caste, which holds political sway and resources in the southern districts of the State and play decisive roles in elections, it was also felt that BJP would take away a sizeable chunk of vokkaliga votes and boost its prospects in the by-elections to Gundlupet and Nanjangud assembly constituencies in Chamarajangar and Mysuru districts, respectively. The by-elections were caused by the sudden death of sitting Minister for Co-operation Mahadev Prasad and senior Congress leader and former minister in Siddaramaiah government V. Srinivas Prasad quitting the party only to join BJP subsequently.
S.M. Krishna had led Congress to power in 1999 and his five-year tenure as Chief Minister of Karnataka earned him the accolade of a ‘good administrator’ and witnessed meteoric growth in the IT sector in Bengaluru, placing the Karnataka’s capital among the top IT leaders in the world.
However, much against the BJP’s wishful expectations that Mr.Krishna’s joining the party would help it in the by-elections, BJP could not wrest the assembly seats from its main rival, while the ruling Congress retained both the seats in the by-polls held in April; while Mr.Prasad was defeated by Kalale Keshavamuthy in Nanjangud by a big margin of 21,334 votes, Geeta, widow of late Mahadev Prasad defeated BJP’s rival Niranjan Kumar by 10,887 votes.
Though Mr.Krishna didn’t reveal about his plans and role in BJP, grapevine had it that he was eyeing on post of Vice-President for which the numbers favoured a BJP candidate. But, he apparently lost the great opportunity when the party declared, immediately after successfully electing Ram Nath Kovind as President of India the name of Union Minister for Urban Development Venkaiah Naidu as its official candidate for the coveted post.
These developments during his first six months in BJP have raised fresh questions in political corridors, particularly in Karnataka: Is he a spent force for the BJP and remains ignored the way he felt in his last few couple of months in the Congress? What will Krishna do hereafter as he had statedly returned to play an active role in his home-State politics in general and Congress in particular? Given that he is yet to be seen as playing an active role even in BJP, will he be comfortable to work under the leadership of B.S. Yeddyurappa in the light of the fact that the party has already declared the latter as its face in the forthcoming elections to the Karnataka assembly with the present Congress government has been left with less than nine months to complete its five-year term in power? What could be an added discomfiture vis-à-vis his any active role in the Karnataka BJP comes in the form returning of the party’s national coordinator B.L Santosh to lead poll-campaign for the forthcoming assembly elections in the State.
Then there’s a million dollar question: Will Mr.Krishna, who is seasoned in the Congress-culture for nearly five decades ever be comfortable with the saffron culture? Or, will he assert and strike back to come out of what presently appears to be his politically precarious position? Or simply repent for his decisions that left him at the cross roads at the fag end of his celebrated political career?
Vijaykumar Patil is a Freelance journalist (formerly with THE HINDU at Mysuru and Belagavi). Email:[email protected]