Siddaramaiah v/s Yeddyurappa: Make or break for ageing warriors
Siddaramaiah probably realizes that in a likelihood of a fractured verdict, he would be completely unacceptable to the JD(S), his former party. The BJP might call Yeddyurappa the tallest leader in the state, but it is a well known secret that he is not the most loved man in his party. The party has not forgiven him for hurting their prospects in 2013.
The dust over the electioneering has long settled on the Karnataka Assembly Polls. May 15, Tuesday will not only reveal the nature of verdict for the state but also decide the fate of the two men – one of whom could govern Karnataka for the next five years – Siddaramaiah of the Congress or B S Yeddyurappa of the BJP. To both, it will not be just a win or a loss. It could make or break their political career, since both of them are anyway in the twilight of their political careers.
Both the men present similar and contrasting profiles at the same time. Siddaramaiah comes with the history of Janata Parivar, and was essentially a JD(S) man till 2005. Yeddyurappa is the prodigal son for the BJP having parted ways with the party in 2012 before unconditionally returning to the party two years later. Both men are considered the flagbearer to the fortunes of their respective parties in the state. A win for Yeddyurappa could open the celebrated “Gateway to the South” for the BJP. A win for Siddaramaiah will arrest the sequence of Congress’ losses to the BJP and probably mark a turnaround in the electoral fortunes of the Congress. It would be safe to say that Modi and Rahul Gandhi are not the main players here : their lieutenants are pitched one against the other.
But as Judgment Day approaches, Siddaramaiah is already talking of a Dalit face as an alternative to him as a Chief Minister. Nervous? Perhaps. Defeatist? No. Pragmatic? Yes. Siddaramaiah probably realizes that in a likelihood of a fractured verdict, he would be completely unacceptable to the JD(S), his former party. In such a scenario, instead of looking like a person who has lost out, he is probably claiming the moral high ground by letting go, even before the results.
For someone who had joined the Congress party in just 2005, Siddaramaiah has turned out to be a dyed-in-the-wool Congressman prompting party President Rahul Gandhi congratulate him for “running a government the Congress way in the state for five years”. But in the past five years, he has also grown to be an astute, pragmatic politician. He tried to beat back the BJP in its nationalist game by propagating his own brand of Kannadiga nationalism – with a flag for the state and harping on Kannada language as opposed to Hindi in public places. With sharp wit, humor and oratory, he threw punches at Modi-Shah-BSY trio and matched them word for word – something that not many Congressmen have done before.
Siddaramaiah has clearly positioned himself as the tallest leader of the Congress party in the state. May 15 will tell him whether the people of his state agree.
The man on the other side : B S Yeddyurappa has many more battles on his plate. He has an image crisis clearly. In 2012 he left the party in the face of mounting corruption charges that resulted in him losing the CM’s chair. Two years later he came back to BJP on his own “unconditionally”. The corruption taint never went away. Even in these elections, him openly siding with the mining duo of Reddy brothers hasn’t helped his image much. BJP President Amit Shah had reportedly cancelled a trip to Bellary where the Reddy brothers were campaigning, ostensibly not wanting to be seen with them on the same stage. The BJP is clearly riding on BSY – corruption charges notwithstanding. Yeddyurappa maintains a strong connect with his party cadres on the ground, and continues to be a bigger mass leader than a Sadanand Gowda or a Jagdish Shettar – the only other options BJP has other than Ananth Kumar.
The BJP might call Yeddyurappa the tallest leader in the state, but it is a well known secret that he is not the most loved man in his party. The party has not forgiven him for hurting their prospects in 2013 Assembly elections. But right now, he fulfils the need for the face of the campaign. BSY is a man who is fighting for his party, not knowing if the party is fighting with him.
For both the candidates, age is clearly not on their side. Siddaramaiah is almost seventy and Yeddyurappa just turned 75. There was an informal ceiling for the age of the CM within BJP. Prem Kumar Dhumal lost out in Himachal Pradesh apparently he was old. But those restrictions have been relaxed for Yeddyurappa – that’s how important is the man to his party today.
So, as the two men await their fate at the hustings as the ballot boxes open on Tuesday May 15, both men won’t be able to sleep easy on Monday night. It is certainly going to be a long, long night