The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to clinch both the seats that went to bypolls in Karnataka. Munirathna, who switched from the Congress to the BJP, won the Rajarajeshwari Nagar seat by 58,000 votes, while in Sira, the party’s Rajesh Gowda is heading towards victory with a lead of 13,000 votes as of 6 pm.
If there’s one thing to take away from the byelection results, it’s the rise of B S Yediyurappa’s younger son B Y Vijayendra, the party’s state vice-president, who steered the BJP to victory.
Its win in Sira will be historic as the party is clinching the seat, held by the Congress and JDS over the years, for the first time. It will be a huge setback for the Congress, as the BJP is gaining dominance in the Vokkaliga heartland, and also for D K Shivakumar, the party’s troubleshooter for whom this is the first election after taking over as the party chief in the state. But, for BSY, it was more a personal battle to silence those against him within the party.
While the BJP sidelined several leaders aged over 75 years, Yediyurappa, at 78, still continues to be the party’s strongman in Karnataka. Some within the party raised doubts about his continuance as the CM owing to his age and growing differences with the party’s central high command.
Given that people have been vying to replace him amid corruption allegations against him and his family members, BSY has been projecting his son Vijayendra as his alternative.
A novice in politics, Vijayendra emerged stronger in his father’s shadow and steered the party to victory in the Vokkaliga belt. Vijayendra camped in Sira for almost 20 days to ensure his party succeeded despite the Congress lining up tall leaders to campaign for its candidate.
After Vijayendra led the party to victory last year in Mandya’s K R Pete, another seat in the Vokkaliga heartland that was for long held by the Congress and JDS, BSY had projected him as a key poll strategist for the party.
“While the other two leading parties concentrated on the Vokkaliga votes, Vijayendra tried to consolidate the smaller caste groups in the region and not just focus on the dominant caste,” a party insider said.
The bypoll victory is more a personal triumph for Vijayendra, who’s micromanaging things for Yediyurappa, even as his party leaders accuse him of interfering in administration of the state.
The party high command refused to give a ticket to Vijayendra for the Varuna constituency (then held by Siddaramaiah) during the 2018 Assembly elections, despite he campaigning for the party in advance. The incident led to a fallout between Yediyurappa and the party’s national general secretary B L Santosh. Ever since, BSY has been making efforts to give his son a bigger role.
A political analyst and professor at Raichur University who wished not to be quoted said that while BSY has the charisma to draw the crowd, his son doesn’t and the party may not give full credit to him and push him higher up the hierarchy.
“If the BJP sidelines BSY, he may break away from the party and join hands with others to project his son as the Lingayat leader, much like how former prime minister Deve Gowda did with his son Kumaraswamy. But people may not accept him as a mass leader, unlike BSY,” the professor said.
Though the party claims to discourage dynasty politics and may not give complete credit to Vijayaendra, they cannot shy away from the fact emerging from the ground.
“Vijayendra is not contesting elections. So there’s no question of dynasty politics. He’s only steering the party from the backseat and he’s achieved something big by winning seats in the Vokkaliga heartland,” Prakash Sesharaghavachar, the party spokesperson, said. “The party will recognise his efforts and give a bigger role to him in the days to come.”