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SET THE TUNE

Despite all odds, the Jagadish Shettar government in Karnataka has made it to the budget session of the assembly. But that is its only consolation, for the spectacle it presents as a government cannot do it any credit. It is so absorbed in guarding its flank that it can scarcely look ahead. This image of the Bharatiya Janata Party government — shaky and at its wit’s end — is what B.S. Yeddyurappa, former chief minister and presently chief of the Karnataka Janata Party, has been gunning for. The aim of the machinations that recently saw the resignation of 12 BJP legislators, known for their loyalty to Mr Yeddyurappa, was precisely this. The master of such political craft, Mr Yeddyurappa could not but have known that the Shettar government would survive in spite of the resignations. His gameplan, however, is not so much to prove the Shettar government’s minority status as to prove his indispensability to Karnataka’s politics. So the Shettar government remains, but completely captive to the rules of the game that Mr Yeddyurappa chooses to devise in order to augment his political status. In the days that follow in an uproarious assembly, Mr Shettar is likely to find himself answerable, in the form of a white paper demanded by the KJP boss, for many of the economic failures that date back to Mr Yeddyurappa’s regime.His minority government will also have to work doubly hard to push through a divided house much of the budget’s wizardry, which it will depend on to undo the damage wrought by Mr Yeddyurappa’s political ambitions.

Unlike the BJP, which is caught in the mire of scandals and undelivered promises, the KJP has emerged miraculously free of the baggage of the past. Mr Yeddyurappa, in fact, has added to its political agility by distancing himself from the mother party’s ideology and declaring the party’s secular leanings. All this might not earn him a majority in the forthcoming elections, but may win him enough number of seats to enable him to remain a constant irritant in the state’s politics, the dynamics of which he has changed irretrievably. The only way the BJP can undercut the KJP is by reminding the electorate that the leaders of the KJP have been party to its sin of bad governance. That, unfortunately, is not something the BJP can ever be expected to do.