BJP mulls rethink on fate of its regional satraps post Karnataka results

BJP supporters are seen during an election rally by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Karnataka Assembly election 2023. File
| Photo Credit: PTI

BJP’s defeat in Karnataka has given much food for thought for the party’s national leadership, including the treatment of regional satraps in the poll going states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

The resignation of former Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa from the post and the subsequent alienation of the Lingayat community, the bedrock of the party’s base in Karnataka is being seen as one of the main reasons for its defeat and the rather disappointing tally.

In this scenario there are many within the party who want to pause and do a rethink on the leadership situation in the States of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. In Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is the incumbent, and the next polls will be fought on his record, there have been attempts to reinvent his image and the BJP’s central leadership is invested in reviving the party cadre which is suffering from a lot of poll fatigue already. Sources in the party say newer welfare programmes and outreach about them are being done to bolster their chances and to combat the incumbency attached to a four term chief ministership.

It is in the case of Vasundhara Raje, former Chief Minister of Rajasthan, however, that the lessons from Karnataka are coming in really handy. Ms Raje is acknowledged as the BJP’s mass leader with a pan State presence but hasn’t exactly shared a cosy equation with the national leadership in New Delhi, with a general view forming that the party would go to polls on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s name.

She has clashed with Home Minister Amit Shah in the past over the choice of State unit chief, (Mr Shah’s choice was Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat) and prevailed as well. The earlier thinking in New Delhi was that with its tradition of alternation, Rajasthan will be voting the BJP back to power, the party, by clever ticket distribution and headwinds of anti-incumbency against the Ashok Gehlot government have its choice on who to project in the polls.

Karnataka and Mr Yediyurappa’s fate has brought up those plans short. Ms Raje has been actively campaigning against the Gehlot government for a year or so now and her show of strength in March on her birthday at the Balaji Dham in Churu was a signal that she is still a strong strong force in state politics.

Parallel to this, the Karnataka victory has bolstered the clout of Congress president Mallikarjuna Kharge who may decisively intervene in the Ashok Gehlot Vs Sachin Pilot fight going on in the state. In such a situation, the BJP may need its regional satrap far more than it though it would.

All elections are different, but on a basic level are popularity contests. Karnataka polls have reinforced that lesson for the BJP, with surprising benefits to some leaders north of the Vindhyas.

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