Two persons make kites bearing the portrait of Modi in Ahmedabad. (AFP)
New Delhi, Dec. 9: Former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s return to the BJP has hit a roadblock for an entirely unexpected reason — the Aam Aadmi Party’s success in Delhi.
The BJP, which was set to welcome its prodigal Karnataka son home after the Assembly elections, has reportedly hung up for a while because it fears the “corruption haze” over Yeddyurappa would make him the object of a campaign by AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal before next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
“Like it or not, Kejriwal is steered by a moral compass that the other parties can’t ignore,” a source said.
L.K. Advani, who was dead against Yeddyurappa’s homecoming, has apparently passed on the word that the Karnataka leader is “bad news” for the party.
Yeddyurappa, who led the BJP to its first government in the south, was forced out in 2011 after being indicted in an alleged scam.
Yeddyurappa’s return had transformed into a test of sorts of the clout Narendra Modi wields in the BJP vis-à-vis Advani and his group. Modi, sources said, had “no problem” with Yeddyurappa and saw “merit” in the electoral “dividend” he could bring in Karnataka through his caste appeal to a powerful community.
The BJP won 18 of the 28 seats in Karnataka in the last Lok Sabha polls. It has reconciled itself to a loss of most of them without Yeddyurappa but is still to get a fix on the gains it can make if he comes back.
The BJP’s Karnataka MPs have reportedly told party president Rajnath Singh that if they were to touch double figures, Yeddyurappa’s return was a must. These MPs include Ananth Kumar who had allegedly instigated Advani to push Yeddyurappa out of the BJP.
Sources said the other project before Modi was to get the estranged Maharashtra cousins, Uddhav Thackeray of the Shiv Sena and Raj Thackeray of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, together before the parliamentary elections and consolidate the anti-Congress-NCP votes.
Neither Uddhav nor Raj was in a mood for reconciliation, a Maharashtra party leader said.
Uddhav had called on Modi in Gandhinagar last week in a spirit of “bonhomie and cheer”. But today, the Sena chief’s response to the BJP’s success in the elections was tentative. He commended the victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh but singled out Kejriwal as a challenge to not just the Congress but Modi, too.
In tune with the BJP’s strategy to strengthen its numbers in its bastions, Modi has told the party that he would prefer to campaign in its strongholds and not expend too much time and energy in states where the BJP has a marginal or no presence.
“He has figured out that the task on hand is to touch 200 or thereabouts in the Lok Sabha polls. He knows that a 160 tally means he is out of the reckoning for the Prime Minister’s post, while a 180-plus showing would make him unstoppable. So rather than hunt for new allies, get a footprint in uncharted terrains and collect two or three seats, Modi’s strategy is to maximise the returns in our core areas,” a leader said.
Modi is expected to address five public meetings in December: in Ranchi, Varanasi, Dehradun, Mumbai and Panaji.
Simultaneously, the BJP is scheduled to begin the exercise of long-listing its Lok Sabha poll candidates this month and finalise some names by February. The state and district presidents have been asked to send in the first list of prospective candidates.