Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s younger son B.Y. Vijayendra sees his new role as one of the state BJP’s vice-presidents as a recognition of his work. For him, it comes after a long struggle against the dynast tag that scuppered his bid for a BJP ticket in the 2018 assembly election.
However, insiders say, Vijayendra’s selection Friday as Karnataka vice-president, along with nine others, is as much a tactical move for the BJP as it is for his father B.S. Yediyurappa.
I thank @BJP4India President Sh @JPNadda ji, Sh @blsanthosh ji, Sh @nalinkateel ji & Sh @BSYBJP for entrusting me with responsibility of Vice President of @BJP4Karnataka. Grateful to leadership for the faith in me, will work hard to further strengthen the party. pic.twitter.com/ke3HnuB1Ol
— Vijayendra Yeddyurappa (@BYVijayendra) July 31, 2020
Vijayendra’s rise from the post of general secretary for the state unit of the BJP’s youth wing, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, comes amid murmurs of a possible change of guard in the Karnataka government.
The state BJP leadership, it is learnt, is looking to replace Yediyurappa, 77, as his age is seen as a disadvantage and there have been concerns about his ability to handle the post of chief minister. However, the BJP cannot afford upsetting the powerful Lingayat community, to which Yediyurappa belongs, say insiders.
Meanwhile, for Yediyurappa, sources claim, his son’s ascension in the party ranks is a “carefully-planned strategy” to continue his legacy in the BJP.
Speaking to ThePrint, Vijayendra said he was “very happy with my new role and indebted to the senior party leaders who thought I was fit for this position”.
“People refer to me as a son of Yediyurappa who is in the party. But this position has shown that the party seniors have acknowledged my sincere work as a karyakarta (worker). I will tour the state and help make the BJP stronger and more vibrant,” he added.
Son rises through the ranks
In 2018, Vijayendra looked all set to contest in a highly-anticipated election battle against former chief minister Siddaramaiah’s son Dr Yathindra from Varuna, but he was withdrawn from the race after the central BJP leadership reportedly took exception to Yediyurappa’s “unilateral” decision to field his son.
The BJP brass was also worried about the optics of Vijayendra’s nomination, since Yediyurappa’s elder son B.Y. Raghavendra was already an MP from Shivamogga. They believed it would give the opposition a chance to corner the BJP on “parivarvaad or dynastic politics” — the very issue the BJP deploys to target the Congress and the Gandhi family.
Vijayendra was, instead, promised a senior post in the party.
Last December, Vijayendra was seen to have played a key role in ensuring the BJP’s victory in the KR Pet bypolls, and his organisational skills were appreciated by the party high command.
According to BJP insiders, Vijayendra had been hoping the central leadership would name him general secretary of the state unit, a position that comes with more power than that of the vice-president, but didn’t get it.
The reason, they say, is that state BJP chief Nalin Kumar Kateel, a close associate of national general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santhosh, did not want a Yediyurappa man in the core decision-making team.
The position of the general secretary in the BJP, sources claim, is based on performance within the party, not organisational skills alone. It will take time for young leaders like Vijayendra to get the position as they have to prove their mettle within the party, they say.
At the same time, they add, the BJP central leadership has realised that they cannot risk upsetting the Lingayat vote bank. The Lingayats constitute close to 17 per cent of the population in Karnataka, and are said to decide the fate of about 120 of 224 Karnataka assembly constituencies.
“There is a need for a central Karnataka Lingayat leader who will succeed Yediyurappa. Age is not on Yediyurappa’s side. Vijayendra is young and is being prepped to be the next Lingayat face, a successor to Yediyurappa,” said a senior BJP leader.
A second leader added, “There is no doubt that the role of the vice-president is important. Kateel and his team wanted to ensure that while giving an important position to Vijayendra, he should not be part of the core committee, taking crucial party decisions.”
A third leader said central BJP leaders “have understood that they cannot win votes based on Modi’s influence or BJP’s merit alone”. “Politics in India still works on a combination of Modi’s charisma, caste and personal-manoeuvring capacity of the BJP leader,” the leader added.
“This we have seen in several states like Haryana, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Delhi. In Karnataka, Yediyurappa came back to power on the basis of his caste and the work he did in his previous stints. It is important for the central leadership to acknowledge the power of the local leaders. In this case the influence of Yediyurappa and his family,” the leader said.
Vijayendra, meanwhile, is said to have accepted the post to thwart attempts by “factions within the BJP who do not want Yediyurappa’s legacy to continue”. Yediyurappa’s close associates say Vijayendra accepted the post keeping in mind the major role he could play in the future.
“Today’s vice-president has a chance of being tomorrow’s president,” said a senior BJP leader. “If there is a leadership vacuum, youngsters like Vijayendra can easily step in to take the reins of the state unit. He is a Lingayat leader with a rich legacy of his father. What else could voters ask for?” the leader added.
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