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Karnataka BJP begins tour of drought-hit areas today, but infighting clouds hover

LiveMint logoLiveMint 17-05-2017 Sharan Poovanna

Bengaluru: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in Karnataka will tour drought-hit districts of the state starting Thursday as they prepare to sharpen their attack on the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government ahead of the 2018 assembly elections.

However, persistent differences between BJP’s state president and former chief minister B.S.Yeddyurappa and leader of the opposition in the state legislative council, K.S.Eshwarappa, have cast a cloud on the proposed tour as there’s no clarity on whether it will break the stalemate.

“This is an attempt to side-step the main issue (infighting); put the discussion on back-burner and project Siddaramaiah and Congress’ misgovernance as the frontal agenda,” said Sandeep Shastri, political analyst and pro-vice chancellor of Jain University, Bengaluru.

On 12 May, Yeddyurappa, a member of Parliament from Shimoga, said all differences will be resolved, but did not respond to a question on why Eshwarappa was not present at an event that was attended by all party leaders in a bid to intensify the party’s attack on the Congress government.

The party even released a 63-page ‘charge sheet’, listing allegations against the Congress government that included failure of law and order, policy paralysis, corruption and rising debt among others.

“I will accompany Yeddyurappa but may not be there for the full course of the tour,” Eshwarappa told Mint on Wednesday.

He said the tour was not an attempt to cover up infighting in the party but to expose misgovernance by the Congress. Eshwarappa said the infighting was over issues that would help strengthen the BJP, unlike the Congress where factionalism had sprouted for individual gains.

Yeddyurappa and Eshwarappa—two of the BJP’s tallest leaders in Karnataka—have locked horns over issues such as the formation of the Sangolli Rayanna Brigade, appointment of district presidents and the functioning style of the former, leading to a crisis where both leaders have refused to acknowledge each other’s presence or the divide within the party.

Despite the intervention of BJP national president Amit Shah in January and the general secretary in-charge of Karnataka, P.Muralidhar Rao, the two factions led by Lingayat strongman Yeddyurappa and Kuruba leader Eshwarappa have been unable to overcome their differences.

Shastri said the central leadership was not likely to convene another meeting between the two sparring leaders unless it feels that a genuine compromise can be reached.

Under Yeddyurappa’s leadership, the party faced an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Siddaramaiah in the April by-elections in Nanjangud and Gundlupet.

Congress has called the BJP tour “ridiculous.”

Dinesh Gundu Rao, working president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC), said Yeddyurappa should have dedicated more effort in the Lok Sabha to get more relief for Karnataka, which is facing its second successive drought year and the worst in over four decades.

Rao also took a dig at Yeddyurappa over his demand for a farm loan waiver, stating that the former chief minister should request the Centre to grant more relief and not find faults with the state’s request.

According to Siddaramaiah, state cooperative societies have only disbursed loans of around Rs10,000 crore (availed of by about 20-22% of farmers), while nationalized and other commercial banks have disbursed Rs35,000 crore, (78-80% of farmers).

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