Home / Opinion / In Karnataka, chief minister Bommai pledges a 'Congress-mukt' state

In Karnataka, chief minister Bommai pledges a 'Congress-mukt' state

DELHI DIARIES: In Kerala, 'teacher' Shailaja is just as popular as before; Opposition CMs cold to AAP
Basavaraj Bommai
Basavaraj Bommai

The Editorial Board   |   Published 13.03.22, 01:06 AM

On the move

Upbeat over the success of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the recent assembly polls in five states, the chief minister of Karnataka, Basavaraj Bommai, promptly declared that Karnataka would be the next ‘Congress-mukt’ state. Bommai, who replaced the BJP stalwart, BS Yediyurappa, in a tearful shift of power last year, has certainly set ambitious goals for next year’s state elections. Faced with multi-pronged challenges from even within the BJP, the former socialist leader, who joined the saffron party after serving in the Janata Dal (United), obviously wants to prove that he is up for the challenge. After pushing the anti-conversion bill in the state assembly, Bommai’s best chance to retain the top office would be to lead the party to an electoral victory. With leaders from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh snapping at his heels, Bommai knows that a resurgent Congress would mean trouble for him in a party that seldom forgives failures.


Still popular

If people thought that the former health minister of Kerala and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader, KK Shailaja, is a spent force, they are mistaken. In spite of being dropped from the Kerala cabinet after the Left Democratic Front romped home a rare second term almost a year ago, Shailaja has a formidable fan following.

Recently, the Tamil superstar, Surya, had a fanboy moment while introducing his latest film in Kochi when he recalled how “teacher” called him after watching his movie, Jai Bhim. She lauded the plotline of the film which was based on a real-life story of a lawyer who waged a historic legal battle against custodial killings of Dalits.

Shailaja is the most popular female politician from Kerala and had won plaudits for admirably handling the Nipah outbreak in 2018 and the first wave of Covid-19. Many even viewed her as the top choice for the CM’s post before the party opted for fresh faces in the cabinet for the second term. However, Surya’s remarks show that Shailaja is just as popular as she was before.

Formidable hold

The results of the recently-concluded panchayat elections in Odisha have, once again, proved the political invincibility of the CM and the Biju Janata Dal supremo, Naveen Patnaik. One question is on everybody’s lips: what is it that makes Patnaik the most popular regional leader of the country? The BJD won 766 out of 852 seats and will form the zilla parishad in all 30 districts.

Sources close to the chief minister point out that his popularity can be attributed to his ability to protect the interests of the people of Odisha irrespective of the government in power at the Centre. He was able to get the best out of the United Progressive Alliance government led by Manmohan Singh and is on good terms with the incumbent prime minister, Narendra Modi. This is primarily because the BJD has an important presence in both the Lok Sabha — 12 members — and the Rajya Sabha — nine members — and no government at the Centre can afford to ignore its demands.

Inner miseries

The results of the assembly elections in five states have shut down murmurs of discontent in the BJP. The saffron party staged a spectacular comeback in four of the states it already held. But sections in the party were reportedly expecting the BJP to lose in Uttarakhand and Goa. Some were even ready for an upset in Uttar Pradesh. In such an event, the setbacks would have raised questions about the current leadership’s style of functioning.

In fact, some BJP leaders in UP were hoping to force a change of guard if the party secured a drastically reduced majority. The deputy CM, Keshav Maurya, was a strong contender to challenge the dominance of the CM, Yogi Adityanath. But Maurya lost the polls by over 7,000 votes. The whispers in the power corridors of Delhi say that many senior ministers were feeling suffocated by the current leadership and were looking for respite. All such hopes have now been dashed. It seems that the foundation has been laid for a prolonged Modi-Yogi era.

Lonely fight

The Aam Aadmi Party’s plans to emerge as a national alternative to the Congress have found few takers among other regional parties. The relations between AAP and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi are certainly frigid. The TRS chief and the CM of Telangana, K Chandrashekar Rao, failed to meet the AAP supremo, Arvind Kejriwal, when the former recently visited the capital as part of his tour to drum up an Opposition coalition. The AAP’s pointman for the South and a member of the legislative assembly from Delhi, Somnath Bharti, lashed out at Rao by calling him “Chhota Modi”.

The AAP has been kept out of discussions about the formation of a third front that is being pushed by the Bengal CM, Mamata Banerjee, and Rao, to challenge the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha election. The party did find a few admirers in the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party chief, Sharad Pawar, dubbed AAP a “national party” after it won the polls in Punjab. However, the victory was met with silence from other Opposition CMs.


The Punjab police is having a tough time vetting the 92 MLAs of AAP. While the CM designate, Bhagwant Mann, and 10 others are known faces, the rest are relatively unknown. On the day of the results, cops reportedly stopped a number of AAP legislators, including Labh Singh Ugoke — he defeated the outgoing Congress CM, Charanjit Singh Channi — who were going to Mann’s home. An officer apologetically told reporters that some constables couldn’t believe that these humbly dressed people were MLAs.

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