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Every time BJP attacks Congress and JD(S) for their dynasty politics, its state chief finds himself on the back foot, given his family’s track record.

Bengaluru: It’s not a stretch to say that B.S. Yeddyurappa is by far the tallest BJP leader in southern India – given his past as the man who led the party to its first electoral victory in the region in Karnataka in 2008.

The BJP high command has acknowledged his political acumen and skill to galvanise support among the cadre by giving him the reins of the party heading into the assembly elections scheduled for 12 May.

Yet, every time anyone from the party talks about the dynasty politics prevalent in the rival Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), the state BJP chief finds himself on the back foot.

At a recent public event in Mysuru, chief minister Siddaramaiah slammed Yeddyurappa for repeatedly calling the Congress a dynastic party, saying: “What moral ground does he have to say that about our party? Who is Raghavendra? Is he not his son? Raghavendra is an MP and he (Yeddyurappa) wanted to field his second son Vijayendra too. Isn’t this dynasty politics?” the CM said.

The CM was alluding to earlier reports that the BJP would field B.Y. Vijayendra against his own son Yathindra in the Varuna constituency, which eventually came to nought. Reports suggested that the BJP’s internal surveys had predicted a defeat for Vijayendra, which is why he was denied a ticket.

All in the same boat

Sandeep Shastri, political scientist and pro-vice chancellor of Bengaluru’s Jain University, said dynasty politics was a reality for all the three major political forces in the state.

“The move by the BJP to deny a ticket to Vijayendra was an attempt to show that it doesn’t believe in dynasty politics. More importantly for me, it was a move to cut Yeddyurappa to size. But the BJP doesn’t have the moral ground to speak on dynasty politics, as it has given tickets to the Reddy brothers of Bellary too,” Shastri said.

However, Vijayendra defended the family from the dynasty tag, saying: “You cannot say that our family is involved in dynasty politics. It is true that my brother is an ex-MP and now an ex-MLA, but beyond that, there is nothing.

“As far as I am concerned, the party workers wanted to me to stand from the Varuna constituency. It would be called dynasty politics if I had stood from any other BJP stronghold seat.

“We are working in our constituency for the benefit of the people. We all work for a national party, and there is no question of political heirs.”

Dynasty beyond politics

The Yeddyurappa family started with a humble business enterprise in Shivamogga. But as the father rose to the chief ministerial seat, the sons also joined in the political enterprise, actively working with him post-September 2008. Raghavendra soon won the Lok Sabha elections from the ‘safe’ Shivamogga seat in 2009, marking the arrival of the ‘dynasty’.

It was in July 2011 that the family’s political fortunes began going downhill. Then-Lokayukta Santosh Hegde released the report on illegal mining which put the BJP’s powerful Reddy brothers from Bellary in the dock, while Yeddyurappa and his family found themselves accused of amassing illegal wealth.

When Yeddyurappa was CM, a prime piece of land in the centre of the state capital was allegedly released to his sons at a price as low as Rs 20 lakh, compared to the market value of Rs 1.34 crore.

And that wasn’t all – cases in the anti-corruption courts indicated that there were 12 instances of illegal denotification of land that allegedly benefitted the Yeddyurappa family. Raghavendra and Vijayendra were also named in the corruption cases regarding several collaborations and kickbacks from high profile companies such as steel major JSW, allegedly worth Rs 20 crore.

A senior politician who did not wish to be identified said: “This is a different case of dynasty politics, where the family not only indulges in building a political dynasty, but also a business enterprise. Look at the way the father, the children, and even the son-in-law were all accused of ‘corruption irregularities’ in courts of law.”

Vijayendra refuted all this by saying that all these cases were “politically motivated”. “There was not a shred of evidence to prove it, and that is why the cases fell apart in the courts. All the allegations were false, and it has been proven beyond doubt,” he said.

Vijayendra, a law graduate, has not been as active and prominent as business graduate brother Raghavendra in politics. But he is known to be the go-to man to get things done in the party. He is also said to have a large slice of the family businesses, and is closely involved with the running of the family’s educational institutions.

“I am happy running our educational institutions and being of service to the people. Politics is not just the only way to serve the people. We don’t care as to what people want to allege against us, we are happy to be able to serve through the education field,” he said.

Not just the bloodline

Besides the direct bloodline, Yeddyurappa’s extended family also wields significant influence in politics and business.

Yeddyurappa’s son-in-law R. Sohan Kumar has allegedly used his powerful political connections to float real estate companies such as Davalagiri Properties and Bhagath Homes, healthcare company Sahyadri, as well as the Besto Ice Cream company in the food sector.

One other person who gets a mention as part of Yeddyurappa’s ‘dynasty’ is close confidant, friend and mentee Shobha Karandlaje. She has stood with the leader through thick and thin, while Yeddyurappa was largely responsible for building her political profile by making her the only woman member of his cabinet. A full-time RSS worker, Karandlaje has also contributed to building Yeddyurappa’s political legacy by steering support in his favour.

Karandlaje was a favourite to get a BJP ticket from Yeshwanthpur, but like Vijayendra, was denied by the party high command at the eleventh hour.

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