Bengaluru: The rebellion in the Karnataka BJP appears to have been precipitated by Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s alleged promotion of his son, B.Y. Vijayendra.
A faction in the BJP alleges that Vijayendra is the “de facto” chief minister and that many party MLAs are asked to go through him before Yediyurappa signs on files.
The allegations were also made public in an anonymous letter that has been in circulation for the past few days in Karnataka. The mysterious unsigned letter is critical of Yediyurappa’s style of functioning and accuses him of handing Vijayendra a free rein.
The letter cites how it is “painful” to see Yediyurappa, “owing to age-related issues as has become weak, helpless and inactive”. The chief minister is set to turn 77 on 27 February.
The letter has also alleged that the CM had been directing legislators and party leaders to “meet his son B.Y. Vijayendra to resolve administrative issues”.
It has further claimed that “Yediyurappa has built a fortress around himself along with his family” spanning over four generations who have been “running the government”.
It also accuses the chief minister of not allowing any other “Veerashaiva Lingayat leader” and urges him to “become a mentor and accept the position of a Governor to laud his political experience”.
A section of the BJP believes that the letter in fact targets Vijayendra more than his father.
On record, however, the state BJP unit is defending the chief minister and his son. “Yediyurappa is 76 years old and ageing; Vijayendra is just helping his father in handling the party affairs so that the chief minister can run the state efficiently,” BJP spokesperson G. Madhusudhana told ThePrint.
“There is no doubt that there is a lot of support from the Lingayat community for Vijayendra,” he added.
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A father’s favourite
There is little doubt that Vijayendra has the blessings of his father in positioning himself as his successor. He has been seen in all major meetings, including the recent one with the BJP central leadership to discuss the state cabinet expansion.
One of the first signs that Yediyurappa was promoting Vijayendra was when the chief minister named his son as the BJP candidate from Varuna, where he was pitted against former CM Siddaramaiah’s son, Dr Yathindra, in the 2018 assembly polls.
But the BJP central leadership had been campaigning against “dynasty politics” across the country, forcing Yediyurappa to drop Vijayendra’s name.
A day before the letter was circulated on 19 February, Vijayendra was being praised in a section of the party for organising a convention of seers, belonging largely to the Lingayat community.
Yediyurappa and former chief minister Siddaramaiah were also present at the convention. It was seen as yet another platform to promote Vijayendra within the party and the Lingayats, the dominant community to which Yediyurappa belongs.
A BJP source told ThePrint that Karnataka BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel is all set to re-organise the party and Yediyurappa has been pushing for Vijayendra to get a plum post, possibly that of general secretary.
The son, however, is no political pushover.
When the BJP swept the Karnataka bypolls, winning 12 of the 15 seats, including K.R. Pete in the Vokkaliga-dominated district of Mandya, it was credited to the organisation and planning of Vijayendra.
He had projected himself and his father as the “Sons of K.R. Pete”, the birthplace of Yediyurappa. It appeared to have found resonance among the voters.
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CM still on firm ground
While there is dissent, the BJP is well aware that there is no bigger leader than Yediyurappa in Karnataka today.
This sentiment was echoed by several BJP leaders who ThePrint spoke to. They said that the effort was to send a message to the chief minister that they were unable to reach out to him due to many hurdles (read Vijayendra).
“There is unhappiness because of denial of ministership to many loyalists. There is no doubt about it. But it is not aimed at dislodging him (Yediyurappa),” a BJP leader told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
Political analyst Sandeep Shastri says the political situation in Karnataka today is a reminder of what happened between 2008 and 2013 when the then Yediyurappa government brought in a few rebels, but in order to please them, had to end up with a lot of disgruntlement.
“These are the casualties on the way. There will be more disgruntlement, divisions in the party and this tussle will continue,” Shastri said. “Though the only positive thing is that the leaders feel that the strong central leadership under Shah and Modi may be able to rein in the father and son. Numerically Yediyurappa may have strengthened his position but politically he has weakened it,” said Shastri.
Shastri explains that Yediyurappa is also paying the price for wanting power at any cost and age is also a factor.
“How long will you set aside the retirement rule? The more you stretch it, the more the demand will be from other quarters,” Shastri added.
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