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After months of defiance and backsliding as he ended his relationship with the BJP, B.S. Yeddyurappa has formally launched his new Karnataka Janata Party. His rally in Haveri was attended by lakhs of people, which notably included several BJP MLAs, and seven ministers. In other words, Yeddyurappa's KJP remains umbilically connected to the BJP, the party he belonged to for four decades.
Given that Yeddyurappa's source of strength is his hold on the Lingayats of north and central Karnataka, he doesn't want to force his sympathisers to leave and destabilise the state government, led by fellow Lingayat Jagadish Shettar. He has, instead, left that decision to the BJP. Will it cast out these Yeddyurappa loyalists or continue with them, as it has previously accommodated political rebels? While Yeddyurappa's KJP will at best be another contender, and a possible spoiler in the next assembly election, his breaking away is certain to affect the BJP's electoral calculations.
The party's hold over Karnataka, its sole trophy in the south, has taken a quarter of a century of patient spadework. However, this conflict with a former pillar of the party underscores a problem national forces like the Congress and BJP often face — the extent to which they depend on the political base, influence and charisma of individual leaders, and how they can make sure departing local leaders don't walk away with a large slice of the organisation. The Congress, which relied entirely on Y.S.R. Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, found itself stumped when Jaganmohan Reddy broke away and appeared to take much of his father's political capital with him.
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