The governance of caste

Once again there is a change in leadership in the Karnataka government. The current state rural development minister Jagadish Shettar is slated to become the state’s next Chief Minister. He is to replace Sadanada Gowda after he served 11 months as CM. Gowda on his part had replaced BS Yeddyurappa when the BJP strongman was forced to quit on July 31 last year after being indicted in the Lokayukta report on illegal mining. But even after his resignation from office he never gave away his sway over the party, continued to influence matters and decision and from time to time even quarantined his followers in the legislative party in a show of strength.  

BJP party president Nitin Gadkari has of course insisted that this is a ‘routine’ change of guard though in more than one case that he had expressed his happiness with the performance of the outgoing CM’s Sadanada Gowda’s 11-month tenure. But at the same time he has mentioned that the party had to go in for a change of leadership keeping the 2013 Assembly elections in mind. If Gowda was performing fine and the party was happy, why exactly was the change required? Gadkari preferred not to elaborate on his ‘findings'.

Actually there is nothing much to argue for or against the change because the BJP national leadership has hardly any control or influence over the Karnataka unit, which is largely dominated by personality cult and caste politics, factors which have particularly come to light in the last two years. Since his ouster, the Yeddyurappa faction, mostly from the Lingayat community have tried to create trouble for Gowda, who is from the Vokkaliga community. In the last two weeks, nine BSY loyalists have resigned from the government, mostly Lingayats. Shettar (56) is being brought in largely because of the rebellion which is being masterminded openly by BSY. And since he remains the man who controls BJP’s fortunes in the state, the national leadership has no option but to oblige him.

One must also note the irony, one which gives traction to the old jungle saying that politics makes for no permanent friend or enemy. Jagadish Shettar had been a long-time rival of BS Yeddyurappa, who, as a career politician, had always worked hard to see ensure Shettar is not in a position to challenge him as the most popular Lingayat leader in the state. Neither Shettar nor BSY of course chooses to remember this because the current arrangement suits both. Shettar becomes the CM and BSY remains the kingmaker.

But if one thinks that BJP is alone in fishing in the caste-waters of Karnataka, it would be wrong. The Congress to is desperately wooing the Lingayats and Vokkaliga and the recent appointment of MLC SR Patil, a prominent Lingayat leader as the Congress opposition leader in the Karnataka legislative council by Sonia Gandhi is a case in point. With Lingayats now scoring handsomely, the bitter caste conflicts are set to only get worse!
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