What 24×7 politician Yediyurappa’s Shikaripura announcement signifies

By hinting his son Vijayendra would be his successor from his constituency Shikaripura, Yediyurappa jolted BJP leaders, including Bommai, into action, and they rushed in to soothe his ruffled feathers

BS Yediyurappa
BS Yediyurappa is a seasoned politician and his statement from a public forum was made with clear intentions and calculations.

While Karnataka Congress leaders are engaged in a seemingly self-destructive race for supremacy in the party, and Chief Minister Basavaraja Bommai and his team are looking clueless about what lies ahead for them, the eternal fighter and the man who helped the BJP to open its southern gate is the one who’s making the political circles anxious.

Advancing years notwithstanding, BS Yediyurappa (BSY) continues to make the right noises at the right times to make his Delhi bosses scramble for ‘damage control’. Those who thought his silence in recent times was an indication of his dwindling interest in politics obviously didn’t know the 24X7 politician.

One seemingly impromptu statement by him in his hometown Shikaripura was enough to jolt Bommai into action and rush to meet the veteran. Evidently, the CM wasn’t acting just of his own will; he was pushed into it by his Delhi bosses.

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On July 22, addressing a small gathering at Shikaripura, BSY said he would love to see the people of his constituency giving the same kind of love and support to his son Vijayendra in the coming days. “It will be Vijayendra from now on who will visit you regularly and take care of you. Stand by him in the coming elections,” he said, indicating his retirement from electoral politics as a huge banner with Vijayendra’s big-size picture smiled from behind. It was as if the ‘King of Shikaripura’ was handing over his fiefdom to his ‘prince’ and anointing him as his successor.

BSY’s strategy

This led to the obvious questions: How could he treat a constituency as his family property that he could just pass on to his son? Did he have the consent of the party bosses to make such an announcement? If yes, how could a party that has been crying hoarse over ‘dynastic politics’ agree to it?

It didn’t take long for the answer to come, as Bommai met BSY and promptly walked up to the waiting cameras to say: “Vijayendra’s candidature for Shikaripura was only a suggestion from BSY and not an ‘announcement.” He further clarified that a decision would be taken by the party high command at an appropriate time and the veteran leader would stand by the party to ensure its win. BSY, too, appeared before the press to repeat what Bommai had said.

But if anybody thought the issue had been successfully thrashed out it would be far from reality. BSY is a seasoned player of political mind games and it can be easily inferred that this statement too was made with clear intentions and calculations.

Seeking importance for Vijayendra

BSY knows that there have been persistent efforts from all around to cut him off shortly after his forced exit from chief ministership.

First, Vijayendra was steadfastly kept out of Bommai’s cabinet contrary to expectations. Later, he was even denied an MLC ticket. What’s more, BSY was not involved in party consultations while choosing candidates for the state Legislative Council and the Rajya Sabha. Rubbing salt into BSY’s wounds was the way he was cold-shouldered for official programmes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the latter’s visit to Karnataka recently.

BSY kept mum all this while; but obviously, he wasn’t giving up. Judging by his statements at Shikaripura, the veteran is gearing up for a fight; this time, for his son. Vijayendra, despite his heroic shows in the by-elections that he had been entrusted with — where he won two out of two, both wins coming in difficult constituencies and under difficult circumstances — has been struggling to find a prominent place for himself in the party.

So much so that the party circles have been whispering about how Bommai has been trying to get out of BSY’s shadow by keeping Vijayendra at arm’s length even as he publicly appears to be obedient to BSY.

To reassert his influence and to push the party to accommodate his son, BSY had to do something. And, that’s precisely what he did at Shikaripura. He probably first wanted to test the waters to see what kind of reactions could come from his statement. The fact that the CM came running to his house at the earliest opportunity meant that what he had said had the desired impact.

BSY knew the party leadership was rattled. That the party cannot face the coming elections by leaving him behind is rather obvous. A sore BSY is more harmful to the BJP than a roaring Opposition. Having realised how seriously the high command takes his words, it was now time for a bargain. That explains why he toed Bommai’s line soon after the meeting.

Purpose served

BSY in his two statements said that Vijayendra would contest from Shikaripura, but in his third statement, he changed his version and said he was forced to make such a comment after Shikaripura BJP workers demanded that he contest from there again.

“There are pressures on Vijayendra to contest from Mysuru or Chamarajanagara area. Our workers in Shikaripura want me to contest from there. There is no question of me contesting again for assembly elections. I just want to tour the state to bring the BJP back into power. Finally, the decision will be taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and the party national president JP Nadda and we abide by their decisions. My words are just suggestions,” he said.

All he probably wanted to tell the high command was that if push comes to shove, he would field Vijayendra from Shikaripura; the message was that the onus was on the party to avoid it by confirming a constituency for Vijayendra at the earliest and also to get his consent before finalising anyone for Shikaripura. Also, he would want the party to accept and accommodate Vijayendra as the next unquestioned leader of the Lingayat community.

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Irrespective of what formula has been worked out by the party top brass to pacify BSY, and what BSY says in public about the role of the high command, this latest round of one-upmanship has certainly reiterated his relevance to the party.

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