Election of a 'non-Kannadiga' mayor witnessed protests by pro-Kannada organizations outside Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) headquarters in central Bengaluru. But within BJP, the nomination and eventual election of Gautham Kumar Jain was a display of the various factions at loggerheads.
Just hours after Jogupalya corporator Gautham Jain was elected as the 53rd mayor with the support of 129 votes, Vatal Nagaraj, a prominent pro-Kannada leader staged a protest inside the BBMP premises. Other groups like Karnataka Rakshana Vedika too condemned Jain's election as the first citizen of Bengaluru.
But BJP was quick to dismiss these aspersions. Reiterating that Gautham Jain is very much from Karnataka, former deputy Mayor S Harish told Republic, "Gautham Jain is from Bellary district, he and his brothers have been running educational institutes in Karnataka. Moreover, he reads, writes and speaks Kannada. When others like Kuppuswamy or Padmavathi became mayors of Bengaluru, nobody raised an issue. Why is Gautham being singled out?"
Supporters of the newly elected mayor are pointing out that in a cosmopolitan city like Bengaluru, issues of language should not surface. But the opposition parties are mounting the attack on CM BS Yediyurappa. "Since Yediyurappa has come to power, it is obvious he is the weakest CM ever. He has admitted that he is walking on a tightrope. So shameful that he had to compromise and say he is toeing the line drawn by Kateel. It shows that he only has the tag of a CM but the power associated with it", said Tanveer Ahmad, national spokesperson of the Janata Dal (Secular).
BJP insiders reveal how a dark horse in the race, Gautham Jain, bagged the position of mayor as a fallout of the massive infighting in Karnataka BJP core committee. Of the 4-5 shortlisted contenders, most of them had ‘godfathers’ who were ministers in the Yediyurappa cabinet.
L Srinivas(Kumaraswamy layout) belongs to revenue minister, R Ashoka’s constituency, L Umesh Shetty(Govindarajanagara) is from housing minister V Somanna’s constituency and, Manjunath Raju (Kadu Malleshwaram) belongs to deputy chief minister, C. N. Ashwath Narayan’s constituency. Making any of these three the mayor would create an imbalance in the power equation in the party.
Nalin Kumar Kateel reportedly superseded CM BS Yediyurappa’s diktat of making Vokkaliga mayor of Bengaluru. He reportedly took a stand that no corporator from an assembly segment that already has a minister will be made mayor. In addition to that, South Bengaluru has had disproportionate representation in the past.
Sources have also confirmed that over 40 corporators from BJP threatened to abstain from voting if Gautham Jain would not be made mayor, clearing exposing the fault lines within the BJP in the state.
The underlying message in the election of Gautham Jain as mayor is the dimension of veteran leader and chief minister BS Yediyurappa’s influence in the state unit of BJP. Many believe that Jain’s proximity to the RSS won him the final consent and despite being the tallest leader of Karnataka BJP, Yediyurappa could do little to back his followers to the position of Mayor.