By V.S. Karnic, IANS,
Bangalore: Ruling parties exploiting the budget in a poll year to boost electoral prospects is old hat. However, Karnataka's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is using budget-politics to corner the party's former leader in the state, B.S. Yeddyurappa.
Assembly elections are due in May and Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar is determined to present a full-budget to the legislature in the second week of February, giving the goby to the practice of doing so after the central government unveils its budget.
Generally states wait for the central budget presentation to know fund allocations for various sectors, apart from the hike or reduction in central taxes, to prepare their budgets.
Shettar and his BJP have advanced the budget presentation following Yeddyurappa's desperate attempts to stall it by toppling the government.
Yeddyurappa, who left the BJP Nov 30 to lead his own outfit, Karnataka Janata Party (KJP), is trying to ensure that the Shettar government is reduced to a minority. He is trying to get at least 25 of the BJP's 118 members, including the speaker, in the 225-member assembly to quit the house and the BJP.
The Congress has 71 members and the Janata Dal-Secular 26. There are six independents and one nominated member. Three seats are vacant.
Yeddyurappa clearly does not want Shettar and the BJP going to the polls after presenting a populist budget.
That would be a double whammy for him as he is also fighting over a dozen corruption cases while Shettar has a clean image and there has been no scandal after he became chief minister in July last year.
Yeddyurappa's ambition was to become first chief minister in Karnataka to present a budget of Rs.100,000 crore. But corruption and illegal land deals that marred his rule that began in May 2008 caught up with him and he was forced to quit in July 2011 over mining bribery charges.
His successor D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who took over in August 2011, got away with the credit of presenting a Rs.100,000 crore budget. He, however, did not last long and was forced out of office in July last year following Yeddyurappa's rebellion.
Shettar and the BJP are in a way lucky as Yeddyurappa's desperation to prevent the budget presentation has given them much-needed manoeuvring space to position themselves in a win-win situation and push him into a corner.
They are using the caste and region card to the hilt to be one up on Yeddyurappa in the event of him succeeding in bringing down the Shettar government.
Shettar and Yeddyurappa belong to the Lingayat caste, a large section of which is generally believed to support the BJP. The caste group accounts for 17 percent of the state's 65 million population and has a large presence in north Karnataka, from where Shettar hails.
Shettar is the first chief minister from north Karnataka in the last 20 years.
Though not known to flaunt his caste card as aggressively as Yeddyurappa has been doing since the campaign for the last assembly polls in 2008, Shettar has begun to talk about it now that his government's survival is under threat.
He, as well as other BJP leaders, have been going around the state telling people that attempts were being made by Yeddyurappa to prevent a fellow Lingayat chief minister, that too from north Karnataka, from presenting a budget.
As of now the caste and region card has given the BJP an upper hand against Yeddyurappa, irrespective of whether Shettar presents the budget or not.
(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)