Almost two years this month since the BJP came to power in Karnataka through questionable means, its chief architect Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa is back in the news with the media intensely foreseeing his imminent resignation.
Yediyurappa, who has been in an incessant fight against detractors within the BJP in the
state, has, however, denied he is putting in his papers. But this has not stopped speculation,
fanned by a story in the NDTV news channel, that he has struck a deal with his party bosses
that will see him step down sooner than later.
If there is any credibility at all to the talk of his resignation, that is only because of his age.
Yediyurappa, who crossed 78 a few months ago, is said to be not in the fittest of health and
is managing to govern the state with the help of his younger son B Y Vijayendra.
In fact, Vijayendra accompanied his father to a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi
in Delhi which was the cause of the latest round of speculation about Yediyurappa’s
imminent exit as chief minister.
If a widely circulating news of a deal is to be believed, Yediyurappa will step down after
ensuring his two sons – B Y Raghavendra and B Y Vijayendra – are “taken care of” by the
party. Raghavendra is a Lok Sabha MP while his younger sibling is yet to contest any
election. In the recent reshuffle of the Modi ministry, Shobha Karandlaje was inducted as a
minister. This was significant as Karandlaje has been a close aide of Yediyurappa for many
Prior to the reshuffle, Karandlaje’s name did not figure in the various names that were
speculated to benefit from Modi’s ministerial expansion. Her surprise inclusion could have
been part of the much-speculated “deal” with Yediyurappa. Other possibilities include
shifting Yediyurappa as governor in a state.
The corollary to Yediyurappa’s exit is: who will be his replacement? Again, going by recent
developments in the BJP and the rise of B L Santosh as national Organising Secretary the
chances are either he himself will be the replacement or at the very least, an individual of his
choice. Some names doing the rounds include central minister Pralhad Joshi and state
ministers Basavaraj Bommai and Murugesh Nirani.
Santosh and Yediyurappa have been at loggerheads in Karnataka for a few years now.
Santosh’s antecedents as an RSS pracharak made him an alternative power centre within
Karnataka’s BJP. The rise of young Bangalore South MP Tejasvi Surya, for instance, has
been attributed to his proximity to Santosh.
For Yediyurappa, his return to the post of chief minister in July 2019 ironically was not to
the liking of many of his colleagues in the party. His commitment to reward defectors from
the Congress and the Janata Dal(Secular) with ministries did not go down well with many in
the BJP who were aspirants for these ministries.
Also, Yediyurappa, on a few occasions did not come across as a rabid pro-Hindutva
politician angering hardline sections in the party.
His appeal during the first wave of the COVID pandemic not to blame any particular community (in this case, Muslims) for the spread of the disease was reportedly frowned upon by some of his colleagues in the party.
On another occasion, the chief minister, in a public forum, openly questioned Prime Minister
Modi in his presence for not releasing adequate funds for drought and flood relief to
Karnataka. This stunned his colleagues for it is not often that a BJP politician dares to
openly stand up to Modi.
The dissidence against the chief minister, meanwhile, appeared to have had the blessings of
the party high command in Delhi. Legislators like Basavaraj Yatnal openly criticised
Yediyurappa and said his days were numbered as chief minister.
Another of Yediyurappa’s closest associates for many years, KG Eshwarappa, recently even
publicly slammed the chief minister’s way of functioning. But all this did not come with a
price, and the critics continue to flourish in the party.
Occasionally, show cause notices were issued to the “erring” politicians but they were never acted upon. According to reports, another reason for resentment against Yediyurappa was that it was his son Vijayendra who was functioning on behalf of the chief minister. Legislators and several others in the party had to approach the chief minister through his son, causing widespread anger.
Despite all the opposition to Yediyurappa, it was not easy for the powerful party bosses, including Home Minister Amit Shah, to act against him as the chief minister had his own
following among the state legislators.
Yediyurappa is also close to the powerful Lingayat mathas in north Karnataka. The BJP feared that acting against the chief minister would result in antagonising the mathas and the Lingayat community with adverse consequences to its electoral prospects.
During his previous stint as chief minister between 2008-13, Yediyurappa had not hesitated
to break away from the party after he was forced to step down as chief minister in connection with the Bellary iron ore controversy. This caused the BJP to lose the 2013 election to the Congress.
The BJP top brass realised that Yediyurappa could not be pushed around and has played a
more discreet role in “convincing” him to step down. Whether his meeting with Modi on Friday was the tipping point will be known for sure in the next few days.