- B.L. Santhosh, Karnataka’s next BJP Chief Minister?
- Will Santhosh become Haryana’s Khattar in Karnataka?
On Friday, 24th January, 2020, BJP’s newly-minted National Organising General Secretary B.L. Santhosh, son of Karnataka soil (Mannina Maga), came to Mysuru to address a public meeting on Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). This law was passed by both the Houses of Parliament with comfortable majority. But the Left political parties and other so-called liberal Opposition parties, including Muslim-specific parties, led by Congress, found fault with the Act on the ground only they can divine. They launched protests soon after the Bill was passed which turned violent, though later the protests were vocal and peaceful. Unfortunately, the protest seems endemic.
The meeting was organised mainly to educate gullible public who were misinformed and misled by the Opposition on CAA.
Santhosh is no stranger to Mysuru city. In fact, after completing his BE in Chemical Engineering from Davanagere, Karnataka, the Udupi-born Santhosh chose to plunge into the service of the country by becoming a full-time worker of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). I learn that as RSS Pracharak, his first posting was to Rajendranagar, then a new developing layout, North of Mysuru city. He served here for one-and-a-half months. That was in 1992. Later, his service was extended to Mysuru city where he served as RSS Pracharak for three years before going to Shivamogga. Thereafter, he never looked back.
According to his RSS friends in Mysuru, in 1994, he was the election agent of H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda of BJP who contested and won from Chamaraja Constituency. Santhosh is said to be the blue-eyed boy of former BJP National President and now the Home Minister Amit Shah, which enabled him to evolve himself as one of BJP’s top strategists.
Santhosh, a bachelor, totally committed to the service of the country through RSS and now BJP, is considered an expert in using social media to communicate the Party’s policy on various National issues. Now, for example, the CAA. No wonder, he is considered a new generation leader.
It may be recalled that when BJP’s first Government in South India was formed in 2008 in Karnataka, with B.S. Yediyurappa as Chief Minister, the Party gave credit for its success not only to Yediyurappa but also to Santhosh who had worked behind the scene for Party’s victory as BJP’s General Secretary (Organisation) in the Karnataka Unit.
Appreciating his good work, the then BJP National President Amit Shah appointed him as National Joint-General Secretary, in-charge of Southern States, in 2014. Apart from his academic qualification and extraordinary organising capacity, his strength as a leader comes from his ability to speak fluently in five languages — English, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil and Tulu. This, naturally enabled him to establish rapport with people speaking these languages, an added advantage to interact with people in any part of India.
Because of his dynamic leadership, an image of being a hardliner Pracharak is created among his RSS and BJP colleagues. Though he appears to keep a low-profile generally, when it comes to facing challenges, he rises to the occasion like a giant. A very fluent and powerful public speaker, he will hold his audience spellbound for any length of time.
Another, hitherto little-known, leadership quality of Santhosh is his eye for identifying talented, hard-working persons among the members of BJP and RSS and giving them responsibility. It is almost like a film director who identifies a talented actor and makes him a Star and a Superstar. No wonder, a 28-year-old Tejasvi Surya or a young journalist like Pratap Simha could become MPs — all because Santhosh could find leadership potential in these two youngsters and provide them with an opportunity much against the wish of State BJP honchos. No wonder, if Amit Shah is called the Chanakya of India’s BJP politics, Santhosh is called the Chanakya of Karnataka politics.
When Yediyurappa became the first BJP Chief Minister in 2008, according to reports in a section of the Press, Santhosh turned out to be the thorn in Yediyurappa’s flesh giving pinpricks. The relationship between the two had soured so much that Yediyurappa had to resign in 2011 over a land scam. It is said that Santhosh was expecting to become the CM (as late Ananth Kumar was ignored), probably like the way Modi became CM of Gujarat, fuelling crisis in the Party. However, Yediyurappa had his own political clout to sabotage such aspirations of Santhosh. It was a turbulent period for State BJP. Yediyurappa soon split from the Party to form his own outfit called Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP). It could get only six seats in 2013 Assembly election, though sabotaged the chances of BJP winning. Later in 2014, the KJP merged into BJP. What was BJP’s loss in 2013 was a gain for Congress and its leader Siddharamaiah. Since then, BJP and Yediyurappa have seen many ups and downs in the boiling political pot of Karnataka and presently, Yediyurappa is back in the saddle as CM by sheer serendipity. Luck.
The Karnataka politicians are now keenly looking for the next Assembly election. If everything goes well, it should happen in 2023. Now let me hazard a prognosis for Santhosh.
Will there be another opportunity for Santhosh (called in admiration and reverence as Santhoshji) to be the Chief Minister of Karnataka in 2023 or whenever the next Assembly election happens if BJP gets people’s mandate to form the Government?
Political pundits of Karnataka opine such a possibility is clearly perceptible looking at the present political scenario of the BJP in Karnataka. In the first place, there is a self-imposed age limit to hold an office for BJP leaders set at 75 years. Going by this age bar, Yediyurappa, who is already 76, is clearly out of the race. Presently, he is in office because of expediency in the absence of others who can step into his shoes. Another factor that will favour Santhosh is that he is a Kannadiga and the third one again in his favour is he comes from RSS School.
In the recent expansion of BJP Ministry to accommodate the new-comers, there was much debate, unconscionable demands for portfolios and bitter acrimony. Therefore, it is clear that there will surely be many contenders for the CM’s Office from the old-guards of BJP in the absence of Yediyurappa. But then, we should also remember among the old-guards there is hardly any one who can match Santhosh to adorn the CM’s office. Naturally, he may emerge as a compromise candidate defying the caste barriers !
It is here that we can draw a parallel to what happened in Haryana where BJP won for the first time in 2014. By defying, not only the claims of the senior BJP MLAs but also the caste consideration, Manohar Lal Khattar who was a former RSS Pracharak and worked successfully for the victory of BJP, was the choice of both RSS and BJP for the Office of the Chief Minister. Even in the Assembly election held in 2019, Khattar was made the CM again after making an alliance with Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party (JJP). Therefore, no one need be surprised if a similar situation replicates itself in Karnataka in the future.
However, this prognosis is steeped in BJP High Command’s unpredictable ways. Remember what happened in Maharashtra? I say unto our politicians from experience that while aspiring power is just and must, greed for power is unjust and even suicidal.
And should the fortune smile on Santhosh as predicted above, he will surely make a very good Chief Minister for the reason he is known to be a no-nonsense man and a go-getter. He believes in the idea that a political office is not for enjoying the care and attention by running administration of the State through the steel frame of bureaucracy, but it is to resolve all kinds of problems hampering the economic development of the State and also in maintaining the law and order. He wants to solve problems kept pending like a festering wound by the earlier Governments.
Now, let us keep our fingers crossed about BJP winning the next Assembly election and B.L. Santhosh becoming the Chief Minister. After all, “Politics is a game of possibilities!”
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