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India's election
Bad Allies and Dismal Prospects for India's Big Parties in Battleground States

BS Yeddyurappa was once one of southern India’s most powerful politicians. Chief Minister of Karnataka and a leader in the BJP, the country’s biggest opposition party, Yeddyurappa was flying high—until summer 2011, when he was implicated in a massive illegal mining scandal. He was forced to resign as chief minister and the BJP booted him out, embarrassed by his antics. But in its quest for votes in the south, the BJP has now brought him back into the fold. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do much for the BJP’s insistence that it doesn’t abide corrupt politicians. As Rahul Gandhi angrily said during a speech last weekend, “Are they blind?”

Yeddyurappa’s past is not the only problem confronting the BJP in Karnataka. Two weeks ago the BJP announced that Pramod Muthalik, the leader of a thuggish, right-wing group of Hindu nationalists who led an infamous attack on a Mangalore pub in which female patrons were beaten up, would join the party. Only hours later, after a public outcry, his membership was revoked. A recent poll by CNN-IBN concluded that the BJP, which won 19 seats in Karnataka in 2009’s election, could get as few as seven this year.

Congress and its allies (together, the United Progressive Alliance) are expected to win as many as 19 seats in Karnataka—a rare bit of good news for the struggling ruling party. But in the rest of India’s southern states, Congress is in trouble. In 2009, the UPA won a whopping 34 seats in Andhra Pradesh, more than it did in any other state. This year, however, the CNN-IBN poll reports, it will get a maximum of just eight seats. Next door in Tamil Nadu the situation is even worse. In 2009 the UPA won 18 seats; this year it won’t get a single one, the poll projects. That’s a heavy loss.

Karnataka and Kerala, two states on India’s western coast who together have 48 seats up for grabs, are rare bright spots for Congress and its allies. The CNN-IBN poll expects the UPA to win majorities in both states. That has a lot to do with the weaknesses of the regional opposition parties there (in Kerala, the UPA’s biggest rival are the Communists, who are “short of ideas and leaders,” according to the Economist) and the BJP isn’t popular either. Indeed, the BJP will struggle throughout the south. But that’s not the case in India’s more populous, and these days more BJP-oriented, heartland to the north. Just about everyone expects Narendra Modi and the BJP to reign supreme on the back of strong results in the north. It is in the south where the BJP will have to work hardest to find friends and coalition partners (hence the alliance with the mistrusted Yeddyurappa), as its own candidates look likely to flounder.

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  • Rajdeep Sardesai

    This is a total lie. B s Yediyurappahas been given a clean chit for all but one of tbe original charges. He resigned as chief minister after the charges were filed. And still does not hold a post in the government. He is back in the party and when cleared of charges could even become the CM again.

    Yediyurappa was a target of a conspiracy by santosh hedge who has acted in a criminal mannarin his investigation.

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