Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa suffered a setback Monday as the BJP high command rejected his nominees to announce the candidature of Eranna Bhimappa Kadadi and Ashok Gasti for the two Rajya Sabha seats in the state. The elections are to be held on 19 June.
Kadadi and Gasti, associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had the backing of B.L. Santosh, the BJP national general secretary (organisation) and an arch political rival of Yediyurappa.
State BJP unit president Nalin Kumar Kateel, after holding discussion with the chief minister, had recommended three potential candidates — Ramesh Katti, Prakash Shetty and Prabhakar Kore.
The party high command, however, dropped all three names and opted for Santosh’s nominees.
The undermining of the chief minister by the high command has come at a time when he has been firefighting on two fronts — the Covid-19 pandemic and the factional squabbling in the government.
Only last week, Primary Education Minister Suresh Kumar who was made in-charge of Covid briefings, following differences between Health Minister B. Sreeramulu and Medical Education Minister Dr K. Sudhakar, declared his decision not to carry out this responsibility.
Kumar ostensibly wanted to focus on his ministry — primary and secondary education — but highly-placed sources in the government attributed his decision to non-cooperation by other ministers.
The high command decision could spell further trouble for the chief minister as eight-time BJP MLA Umesh Katti had been quite upset after being denied a ministerial berth. He had set an ultimatum, demanding a Rajya Sabha ticket for his brother, former MP Ramesh Katti, whose name was recommended by the state BJP unit.
The older Umesh Katti had held a “dinner meeting” with 13 BJP MLAs at his residence in Bengaluru on 28 May. Now that his brother has been denied the seat, North Karnataka leaders say that there is a possibility that he may talk of defection.
But it all comes down to how well Yediyurappa manages to quieten these voices of dissent or whether the central leadership will step in once again.
The RSS nominees
The two men to make the cut have deep ties to the RSS and have been BJP members for decades.
Ashok Gasti, an advocate by profession, is a former general secretary of the BJP’s OBC cell. He belongs to the Savitha (barber) community.
Eranna Kadadi is a senior Lingayat leader from Belagavi and had earlier served as the BJP district president there. He contested assembly elections from the Arabhavi constituency in 1994 but lost.
A senior BJP functionary told ThePrint that Kadadi’s candidature was also supported by his close friend, junior Railways Minister Suresh Angadi, while Gasti was handpicked by Santosh.
“This decision to field two darkhorses has silenced many. This way the BJP central leadership has sent a message that they take the final call,” said a senior minister in the Yediyurappa government on condition of anonymity.
A Belagavi-based BJP functionary on condition of anonymity explained that both leaders are extremely popular at the district level. However, their candidature was pushed by senior RSS leaders who felt the need to bring in new faces.
“Kadadi is from Gokak. This is also the place from where Ramesh Jarkiholi hails from,” said the leader. Jarkiholi, a strong North Karnataka leader and a long-time Congressman, recently shifted allegiance to the BJP along with the other turncoats.
“Over the years Kadadi has worked tirelessly and this has been seen by the local leaders as well. But one cannot discount the fact that both RS nominees are close to Santoshji,” added the BJP functionary.
BJP spokesperson S. Prakash said that the names were certainly a surprise for the state unit. “This is also a way of the central leadership rewarding karyakartas in the party. This is an example to show how the BJP recognises party workers and it has enthused them as well,” Prakash said.
Yediyurappa sidelined earlier as well
This is not the first time that Yediyurappa has been snubbed by the central BJP leadership ever since he took over as chief minister in July last year.
For the first 20 days, the chief minister was a one-man cabinet as the BJP top brass refused to give him the green signal to appoint ministers. During this time, Yediyurappa and his team made six attempts to meet then party national president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the expansion, but their efforts were futile.
Sources in the BJP said that the appointments were called off due to several political developments but added that the duo also wanted Yediyurappa to get the message that decisions will be taken at their pace, not his.
In November 2019, Yediyurappa once again went against the wishes of the BJP high command and launched ‘Operation Lotus’ to poach 18 MLAs of the Congress and the JD(S) to ensure the stability of his government.
The decision did not go down well with the party leadership as they wanted to ensure that the legislators who were being lured did not have too many demands. But an extremely impatient Yediyurappa went ahead with his plans and agreed to several of the MLAs’ demands including promising them all cabinet ministries.
After the December 2019 bypolls, in which 15 of the Congress and JD(S) turncoats were given BJP tickets, Yediyurappa tried to meet Shah and Modi to seek their permission to induct 13 of the rebels who won into his cabinet.
But Shah shot down Yediyurappa’s desire to appoint them all and was told that he could induct only six. After much deliberations, however, 10 of them were made ministers.
Another reason that the central leadership has been taking things slow when it comes to the Karnataka unit is that it is displeased with the chief minister trying to promote his son B.Y. Vijayendra as his political successor, said a senior party functionary.
“He has been pushing for Vijayendra to be his replacement, which is against BJP’s nationwide campaign against dynastic rule.” he added.
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