In July 2021, many observers as well as adversaries of BS Yediyurappa were busy writing his political obituary after he was asked by the BJP top brass to step down as Karnataka’s chief minister and make way for a ‘younger’ leader.
Cut to August 2022, and Yediyurappa has managed to find space in the top decision-making body of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
So what does the inclusion of Yediyurappa mean for him, Karnataka and the BJP? ThePrint will decode these questions in this week’s newsmaker.
Perfect timing for BSY
The former chief minister’s inclusion in the BJP parliamentary board comes at a time when he has been sulking over getting sidelined in the party. First he was removed as the CM. Then the BJP high command denied legislative council ticket to his younger son.
The development also assumes importance because the Karnataka government and the BJP appear to be on the verge of an implosion. In removing Yediyurappa, who was forced to resign from the CM post on 26 July 2021, and installing BS Bommai, another Lingayat, a community which is numerically, economically and politically strong, the BJP was hopeful that its support base would remain intact, something which the party is no longer sure of with internal surveys indicating otherwise.
The recent episodes that sparked off speculations of Bommai being removed had gained credence after an alleged audio clip of state minister J.C. Madhuswamy emerged in which he can be purportedly heard describing the Karnataka government as “non-functional”.
The Bommai government also received flak from the BJP cadres after the murder of Bajrang Dal member Harsha Jingade on 20 February in Shivamogga followed by the murder of BJP’s Yuva Morcha member Praveen Nettaru in Dakshina Kannada district on 26 July. State BJP president Nalin Kateel and state minister Sunil Kumar Karkala were heckled during their visit to Nettaru’s home.
Importance of Yediyurappa
What has also forced the BJP to mollify Yediyurappa is the past experience when his rebellion had cost the party the 2013 assembly election. The veteran leader had formed his own party — the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) — whose around 10 percent vote share ate into the BJP’s vote bank.
The election ended up reiterating the obvious — Yediyurappa was indispensable for the BJP owing to the sway he held over the Lingayats.
BSY, as he is popularly known, belongs to the Lingayat community, which comprises 16 per cent of Karnataka’s population and is known to impact 100 of its 224 assembly seats. Yediyurappa is credited with helping the BJP form a base in Karnataka, the only state in the South where the party has been in office.
The BJP’s rise in Karnataka is inextricably linked to that of Yediyurappa. He was appointed the chief minister in 2007 as part of an agreement with the Janata Dal (Secular) over the sharing of CM’s post, three years after the assembly election in which the BJP had emerged as the single largest party. However, soon after BSY was appointed, the JD(S) withdrew support and the government fell.
In 2008, he returned to power, helping the BJP form its first government in Karnataka with the help of independents. After ruling as CM for about 39 months, Yediyurappa’s name cropped up in an investigation conducted by Lokayukta of Karnataka and he was ordered to resign by the BJP parliamentary board in 2011.
Though Yediyurappa had fallen out of favour with the BJP leadership, including over what was seen as his unilateral functioning, the party had also taken note of allegations of corruption against him. And yet, BSY has not only survived in the BJP but has gone on to strengthen his position further.
On Wednesday, soon after his appointment to the parliamentary board, he vowed to bring the BJP back to power in Karnataka and strengthen it in the rest of South India.
That BSY is back in the game soon became apparent as leaders in Karnataka made a beeline to congratulate him. Karnataka in-charge Arun Singh also met him Wednesday.
“I’m the best example to prove that the BJP will not leave its active ordinary karyakarta. I don’t believe that politics and public life are areas of retirement and our leaders have attested it. I will work for the party and organisation till my last breath,” Yediyurappa told reporters.
(Edited by Prashant)