BJP’s ‘Double Engine’ Working In Bihar And Bypolls, Including BSY And Son In Karnataka

BJP’s ‘Double Engine’ Working In Bihar And Bypolls, Including BSY And Son In KarnatakaModi and Nitish Kumar.
  • In Karnataka, where Chief Minister Yediyurappa had nothing at stake in the two seats which went to the polls, Rajarajeshwari Nagar and Sira, the message is really for the party’s high command — that BSY still matters.

Around 2pm, when voting trends in the all-important state of Bihar were pointing towards an NDA victory, the real story to emerge was how the party’s satrapies in the states have fared. Here, there is no doubt that barring Haryana, the party had many reasons to cheer.

In Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Karnataka the BJP’s performance was far ahead of the rest.

In none of these states barring Madhya Pradesh did the incumbent BJP government have something to prove, but the party has come out trumps.

In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP looked set to take over two-thirds of the 28 MLA seats at stake, in Uttar Pradesh six out of seven, and in Gujarat all eight.

The BJP needed only eight seats in Madhya Pradesh to retain power, but Chief Minister Shivraj Chauhan and Jyotiraditya Scindia looked set to sweep the bypolls.

In Karnataka, where Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had nothing at stake in the two seats which went to the polls — Rajarajeshwari Nagar (RR Nagar) in rural Bengaluru and Sira in Tumkur — the message is really for the party’s high command.

Both these seats are Vokkaliga dominated, and a win here would have helped Congress Karnataka chief DK Shiva Kumar, a Vokkaliga himself, to prove his credentials. But late afternoon trends indicate that the BJP will win both seats, which are in the Old Mysore region where the party has always been an also-ran.

Old Mysore is a Vokkaliga stronghold, and both the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Congress have their core voters there. If both seats are lost, it poses a threat to Shiva Kumar’s hold on the party, and an existential crisis for the JD(S).

Under Yediyurappa, the tallest Kannadiga leader currently, the BJP has been seen as a Lingayat-based party. But now, it seems to be expanding its reach to newer segments.

In short, even at age 77, the man who built the party in Karnataka, giving the BJP its first bastion in the south, has once more proved how indispensable he is.

Clearly, the party high command would be making a huge mistake if it thinks Yediyurappa is a spent force in state politics.

The two Karnataka bypolls are significant for many reasons.

First, these polls provide a beachhead for the party to start making inroads into the Old Mysore region.

While Sira is in Tumkur district, the stronghold of the JD(S), RR Nagar is in Bengaluru Rural, which was the Congress party’s only win in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

In RR Nagar, Congress-turncoat N Munirathna has been fielded by the BJP, and he is winning the constituency in a canter.

Yediyurappa has promised to make him a minister if he wins.

Second, in Sira, the BJP had no caste base to bank upon. The Lingayats are barely 5,000 in this constituency, while Vokkaligas dominate with 60,000 voters, followed by SCs at 50,000, Muslims with 23,000, STs with 15,000 and Kurubas at 13,000.

The Kurubas produced the last Congress Chief Minister in the state in Siddaramaiah.

Third, if the BJP wins Sira, which seemed a possibility (around 2pm, the BJP candidate was leading by over 7,000 votes), clearly, we are about to see another son-rise: Yediyurappa’s son Vijayendra, who has been camping in this constituency and taken it upon himself to score a win for the party.

While Yediyurappa lent his shoulder to help win this constituency, it was his son’s work that may have paid dividends.

The message from the bypolls is that the BJP’s real trump cards are its state leaders, with Narendra Modi at the Centre providing additional horsepower.

In Karnataka more than in Bihar, the double-engine is Modi and Yediyurappa. One without the other would not work.

Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.

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