Yediyurappa factor, 2023 Karnataka Assembly elections
The BJP is now working cautiously to keep BSY in good humour but is also not yielding completely to his demands.

BJP tussles with Yediyurappa factor before 2023 Karnataka polls

Clearly, the BJP is unable to decide how to deal with BSY. Can the party afford to dump the "King Bruce" of its  Karnataka unit, who helped open the doors of South India for it?

In the run-up to the Karnataka Assembly elections next year, the spotlight seems to be on former Chief Minister and political warhorse BS Yediyurappa (BSY).

Even as the Congress harbours plans to capture the Lingayat vote bank in addition to its strong base of AHINDA (Minorities, Backwards and Dalits), the BJP has Yediyurappa, considered a tall leader of the Lingayat community. Realising the importance of the BSY factor that will play a very important role in the 2023 elections, the BJP can ill-afford to cold shoulder the old-timer.

Assuming that the AHINDA base is firmly behind it, the Congress’ goal now is to win over the Vokkaliga community by keeping DK Shivakumar (DKS) in the forefront and propping him as an its alternative to BSY.

If Karnataka is BJP’s lone bastion in the South, this has a lot to do with the charisma and command of BSY. He has been the CM four times – not lasting a full term even once. But he continues to enjoy the position of being the leader of the Lingayat community. His personal rapport with many top leaders in the Opposition, too, has added to his heft. That’s the reason the state BJP gave prominence to BSY at its recent baithak.

The baithak

The BJP state unit held a Chintan Manthan Baithak (brainstorming session) on July 15 to discuss the 2023 Assembly elections. It was held amid the backdrop of recent surveys conducted by its internal team as well as external agencies. Disturbingly for the BJP, the findings are pointing to an anti-incumbency mood in the state. The party is not about to ignore the survey.

The party’s state-in-charge Arun Singh chaired the meeting attended by National General Secretary BL Santhosh, state BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel, and influential leaders like CT Ravi, DV Sadananda Gowda, and Jagadish Shettar, apart from BSY himself.

Also read: 75th birthday bash for Siddaramaiah leaves Karnataka Congress divided

It is clear to the BJP high command that issues like the police sub-inspector recruitment scam – where an AGDP level IPS officer was arrested – with accusations of a 40 per cent commission, are hugely responsible for the mood against the government. But that is not worrying the top brass; they seem to be more troubled over BSY’s non-committal silence and enigmatic neutral stand.

Evidently, as the sources pointed out, the party wanted to “hear” from the leader about what is to be done. The issue of taking BSY’s “guidance” was discussed in detail at the baithak; but the question that is lurking at the back of everyone’s mind is, but “how?’’

BJP and BSY are in a dilemma

It’s a known fact that the state BJP unit has been on tenderhooks ever since BSY was asked to resign as CM. First, it was a challenge to choose BSY’s successor. The high command wanted to install a leader who would tow their line and not someone like BSY who worked according to his own will.

The central command wanted to drive home the point that the party is more important than the individual. Fully aware of the damage that dethroning its tallest leader in the state may create, the central leadership meekly surrendered to BSY’s condition of being allowed to choose his successor. Basavaraj Bommai, the then home minister who was BSY’s confidante became his first choice.

Though, Bommai has largely striven to get closer to central leadership, they are anxious about the influence the veteran former chief minister continues to wield over the current CM as well as the state BJP leaders.

BSY: What next?

Clearly, the BJP is unable to decide how to deal with BSY. Can the party afford to dump the “King Bruce” of its  Karnataka unit, who helped open the doors of South India for it by forming a government in Karnataka?

Also read: What Yediyurappa said after BJP denied MLC ticket to his son Vijayendra

According to sources, BSY was offered a governor’s post several times in the last one year, but he has turned it down every time. The idea behind the offer is to make him politically redundant, while also placating the anger of the Lingayat community. The party leadership, obviously, wants and needs the political influence of BSY, but doesn’t want him to be calling the shots! It’s like the proverbial ‘wanting to eat the cake and have it too!’

The anti-BSY group of leaders led by Basavaraj Patil Yatnal and others have been systematically and consistently attacking the father-son duo of BSY and his son BY Vijayendra. This is to thwart BSY and his son from making a reentry into the party. Party members feel that this group probably is acting at the behest of the ‘invisible’ forces in the high command that want to ensure the exit of BSY for good.

Curiously, BSY is not showing much interest in the party affairs, either. He probably knows too well that his party cannot mess too much with him openly – notwithstanding the barbs from his rivals within – and hence wants to build enough pressure so that his son BY Vijayendra is accommodated suitably.

BSY has ensured that rumours about Vijayendra walking out of BJP and launching a party along with a Congress top leader are kept alive

The BJP may want to benefit from Vijayendra’s political capabilities and his potential to be his father’s true heir as the leader of the Lingayat community. But the question that’s haunting the leadership is whether it should accord such an importance to the BSY dynasty and, thereby, allow them to dictate terms.

A senior BJP leader confesses that both the BJP and BSY are confused over the stand they should adopt. While the party does not want to go back to being led by BSY, even BSY cannot afford to desert the party in view of the court cases dangling over his head. As a means of sending out a message to the cadre, the high command at one point of time toyed with the idea of replacing Bommai, who is BSY’s choice, with someone of its own preference but the circumstances haven’t allowed that to happen.

At the same time, BSY has ensured that rumours about Vijayendra walking out of BJP and launching a party along with a Congress top leader are kept alive and afloat all the time.

There are now talks of the party trying to placate BSY by asking Vijayendra to contest the 2023 elections. It is said that he has been asked to contest from the Old Mysuru area, most probably from the Varuna assembly constituency – which is a stranglehold of Siddaramaiah and is currently held by his son Yateendra – so that the party can make significant inroads into the JDS-Congress bastion.

Also read: Karnataka BJP MLA claims he was told to arrange ₹ 2,500 crore for CM’s post

BSY helps Congress?

It’s a known fact that BSY wrested power from the JDS in 2019, with the help of ‘team Siddaramaiah’.

Siddaramaiah’s friends – who are also famously known as “geleyara balaga’ (friends’ group) that comprises ST Somashekhar, Munirtna Naidu, Bairati Basavraj, MTB Nagaraj, and Dr Sudhakar –  switched to BSY’s camp. It is now speculated in political circles that BSY will return that favour and help Siddaramaiah in the next elections! The camaraderie between the two leaders was strikingly evident at BSY’s 75th birthday event. At the function, Siddaramaiah had showered praise on the BJP leader.

Keeping all this in mind, the BJP is now working cautiously to keep BSY in good humour but is also not yielding completely to his demands. The party is ready to humour him if Vijayendra’s future is his sole concern. The offer of Varuna constituency instead of his father’s bastion, Shikaripura, is seen as a master stroke since it serves three purposes for the party –  it will help strengthen the party in the old-Mysore region, pacify BSY, and also allow the party to groom someone else in Shikaripura so that the party can claim that it doesn’t encourage dynasty politics.

The next step is to find a place for BSY in the party; a position that’s honourable but not powerful! Since the famous ‘margadarshak mandal’ (advisory committee) is known as a forceful retirement bench, BSY and his followers will certainly not accept him being relegated to that post. So, what else for BSY?

Will the BJP make him the chairman of the election committee for 2023? It will be a temporary position; and, what’s more, given BSY’s age, he will just be in the position as a figurehead. Above all, will BSY cave in accept this?

Read More
Next Story