Newsmaker: Kannadiga Chanakya

Not much may be known about his skills in managing water resources, one of his jobs in the HD Kumarawamy cabinet but Karnataka minister Doddalahali Kempegowda  Shivakumar is now widely acknowledged as the man who has firmly turned the BJP's tap off in the sole southern saffron pot – and neuralised the power of the Bellary Reddys.

Barely recovered from the uppercut delivered six months ago when its government fell three days after coming to life, the BJP got the knockout blow this week in the bypolls losing 4-1 to the Congress-Janata Dal (S) combo, a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) born out of compulsions of a fractured mandate but now believed to be the talisman to keep the BJP away from power.

With DK Shivakumar being talked about as the man who punched the BJP out of the ring twice, there are already murmurs if Machiavellian Amit Shah has found his match in a Kannadiga version of Chanakya, an equation that can jeopardise Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rerun campaign in 2019 in a state that sends 28 MPs to Lok Sabha – 17 of them were from the BJP in the last election.

Going by the heavy ordnance of central tax agencies used against a second rung state leader in what appears to be an asymmetric warfare, the BJP leaders have conceded that Shivakumar, the richest Karnataka legislator and a strong Vokkaliga voice, is the numero uno challenger.

Shivakumar had managed to dodge the web of tax henchmen to save the Janata Dal (S)-Congress flock of legislators from poachers after the assembly polls, forcing the BJP to give up the race to form the government. He waded through the charges of corruption, tax evasion and hawala transactions to challenge the BJP in its stronghold Bellary for the bypoll  and planted a Congress flag on a seat that has been electing a saffron MP riding on the clout of the powerful Reddy brothers for the last 14 years.

Cake walk

Apart from winning his own election from Bellary, Shivakumar is being credited with breaking the BJP's back in the Ramanagra assembly seat won by chief minister HD Kumaraswamy's wife Anitha. It was a cake walk for her after the BJP candidate L Chandrasekhar, a former Congressman, gave up the contest mid way.

If the victory of united opposition candidates in the bypolls in Uttar Pradesh had shown the way to stop Mode’s victory chariot, the success of the Janata Dal (S)-Congress alliance has strengthened the belief that the PM is not in

But the opposition alliance has been on a roller coaster ride so far with BSP leader Mayawati showing the thumbs down to the Congress in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh indicating that she will be a tough bargainer. The latest Karnataka results have once again revived the hopes of opposition unity and such is the desperation that even Telugu Desam Party’s N. Chandrababu Naidu has shed his anti-Congress boxing gloves to shake hands with arch rival. His meeting with Rahul Gandhi was yet another turning point in the Indian politics.

Naidu has carried forward the unification drive to bring other leaders on board as he met Sharad Pawar and Farooq Abdullah in New Delhi then followed up with interactions with former prime minister HD Deve Gowda to form an anti-BJP front to "save democracy".

 

The BJP's track record in dealing with united opposition candidates is dismal despite Prime Minister Modi's popularity which has not found a match till now. The TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor may not be enough for the BJP to deal with index of opposition unity. One way to deal with it is not allow it to form. The party is wooing stalwarts from the opposition camp and people like Shivakumar have managed to avoid the bait.

Such is the support for him that six Congress MPs came out accusing the centre of a witch-hunt against Shivakumar who has already trained his guns on Prime Minister Modi claiming that results have shown that the people are not happy with the policies of the central government.

The BJP might have won almost all the state elections after 2014 but its Lok Sabha tally has come down because of successive setbacks in bypolls. The BJP has won only 4 out of 23 Lok Sabha bypolls. It has lost over half a dozen seats held by it in 2014.

The party has maintained that winning state elections was more important than bypolls but it has a job at hand to reverse the losing trend. The coming state elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram will certainly work as a political windcock. Leaders like Shivakumar are gearing up for the battle ahead.

gautam.datt@mydigitalfc.com

Columnist: 
Gautam Datt