By V.S. Karnic
Bangalore: Sensing the possibility of regaining power in Karnataka after nearly eight years, the Congress is actively preparing itself for the assembly polls due early next year even as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hurtles from one crisis to the other.
A little over a month after Congress president Sonia Gandhi came to the state to woo the politically influential Lingayat community, whose support to the BJP brought it to power, her son and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi will be here June 1 on a two-day visit.
The BJP camp is also looking forward to high-profile visits but only to douse the raging fire in the state unit where its scam-hit former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa is making frantic efforts to unseat his successor D.V. Sadananda Gowda.
BJP general secretary in charge of Karnataka affairs Dharmendra Pradhan was in Bangalore late Friday and Saturday for a patch-up bid. Leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley who was also to arrive for the truce-attempt has cancelled his visit.
While the immediate threat to the survival of Gowda, who took over from Yeddyurappa last August, has been averted, the government remains shaky and there is a distinct possibility of early elections to the 225-member assembly.
In contrast, Rahul Gandhi will be trying to pep up state Congress leaders to go all out to regain the power the party lost in 2004 — though it headed a coalition with Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) for about 20 months in 2004-2006.
This will be Rahul Gandhi’s first visit to the state in almost two years. He will address the Youth Congress national executive at Hubli, about 400 km north of Bangalore, June 1.
This is the first time the executive meeting is being held in Karnataka.
The next day, he will proceed to the central Karnataka town of Davangere, about 200 km north of Bangalore, to talk to heads of district Congress committees and the party’s block presidents.
The visit of Sonia Gandhi and her son come in the wake of expectation that the state may be headed for elections later this year itself instead of early next year in view of the continuing crisis in the ruling BJP.
It is not only the Congress and the JD-S, the two main opposition parties in the state, which are demanding immediate resignation of the BJP government and elections.
A section in the BJP too sees early elections as the best way to get over the simmering crisis in the party triggered by Yeddyurappa and his loyalists’ bid to oust Gowda.
The Gowda ministry is surviving not because of the BJP national leadership’s deft crisis management but due to around a dozen corruption and land deal cases pending against Yeddyurappa.
It has been given a fresh lease of life following the May 11 Supreme Court order for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into mining bribery charges and illegal land deals against Yeddyurappa.
Realising his dream of becoming chief minister again has to wait till the CBI probe is over, the former chief minister and his supporters are now demanding Gowda be replaced by rural development minister Jagadish Shettar.
Gowda’s supporters are working to thwart the move by suggesting Shettar be made the deputy chief minister.
Given the animosity among rival factions in the state unit, the BJP national leadership can at best achieve fragile truce with early elections emerging as the best way out to end the mess in the state.