Political fortunes of Yediyurappa & sons hang in balance
The BJP’s decision not to nominate B S Yediyurappa’s son for the legislative council election on June 3 can be one of two things: either it is sunset for the former first family of Karnataka or the start of a much bigger role for the ex-chief minister’s son B Y Vijayendra.
Yediyurappa has stretched himself to douse any speculation in the media that the BJP’s decision is a setback for his family and that he is no longer required for the party. The former chief minister has requested the media not to see it adversely and is confident that his party has better things in store for his son, Vijayendra.
The former chief minister, who has a reputation for not taking any insult lightly, appears to have been assuaged by the leadership for now. Else he would have raised the flag of revolt. In the period 2008-13 when Yediyurappa was chief minister, he was asked to step down mid-way by the then BJP central leadership after a Lokayukta report cast aspersions on his role in the Bellary iron ore scam.
An unforgiving Yediyurappa quit the BJP and fought the 2013 elections independently. Among other things, this ensured that the BJP lost the polls and the Congress came to power. A chastised BJP since then got him back into the party and fought the 2018 elections under Yediyurappa’s leadership. Though it secured the highest number of seats, it fell short of a majority.
A disappointed Yediyurappa, with the party leadership’s blessing, almost single-handedly brought down the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance and returned to power through the backdoor in July 2019. The octogenarian appeared to be suffering from age-related health issues and his son Vijayendra became the points person and conduit to Yediyurappa – one reason that led to widespread resentment within the party, especially among the seniors.
Yediyurappa was eventually forced to step down after what seemed a backroom deal in which the son was made vice-president of the state unit. It is in this context that the denial of a nomination to Vijayendra has raised eyebrows.
From the BJP perspective, the ageing former chief minister has fulfilled his role – of steering the party into a position of dominance in Karnataka and installing it in government. It is now time for others to take the legacy forward.
The national organising secretary B L Santosh, with his RSS background, is widely reported to have emerged as a rival to Yediyurappa over the last few years and is today calling the shots in the state. If Vijayendra’s sidelining is the handiwork of the Santosh faction, then it is curtains for the Yediyurappa family.
The elder brother B Y Raghavendra is the party’s Lok Sabha MP from Shimoga constituency, and is not likely to be disturbed until 2024. By the time elections happen, it will anyway be clear where the family stands as the state Assembly elections are due in 2023.
The only factor going for Yediyurappa is the degree of clout he has over the BJP in the state and his position as a prominent leader of the dominant Lingayat community in the state. The BJP leadership, particularly the Santosh faction, will already be assessing how important he is for the party when it goes to the polls next May.
In July 2021, when Yediyurappa was persuaded by the BJP leadership to step down, there appeared to be a note of conciliation when his loyalist Basavaraj Bommai was chosen to replace the veteran politician. Since then, Bommai has not exactly covered himself in glory with socio-religious unrest in the state and a slew of controversies, including allegations of corruption against his government and senior ministers.
It is not exactly clear what is making Yediyurappa sound so conciliatory to the rejection of a council seat for his son except a promise perhaps that Vijayendra will be given a ticket to contest the Assembly elections. To a reporter’s question on this, Yediyurappa was non-committal saying “we’ll see when the time comes”.
Going by what has been happening in other states, chances are that Bommai too will be replaced a few months before the elections. Yediyurappa’s fate will depend on the politician who will take over, if Bommai is indeed replaced. If that individual belongs to the Santosh faction chances are that Yediyurappa’s family will need to seek out other options, including outside the party, to remain relevant in the state’s politics.
The next one year, until the 2023 Assembly elections, will be crucial for Yediyurappa and his family’s fortunes, much depending on how active they are among the public. If Yediyurappa shows signs of tiredness or Vijayendra does not make his presence felt politically, there is little reason for the BJP to continue humouring the ageing leader.