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With ‘Modi alone can’t win state polls’ comment, Yediyurappa warns BJP not to discount him yet

Speaking at BJP executive meeting in Davanagere Sunday, Yediyurappa also warned that if party doesn’t win 2 upcoming bypolls, it will not send the right message. 

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Bengaluru: In his first BJP state executive meeting since stepping down as Karnataka chief minister, B.S. Yediyurappa raised eyebrows Sunday when he said the party can’t win elections in the state using Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s name alone.

The statement is being seen as Yediyurappa’s clear message to the BJP leadership not to discount him yet, about two months since he vacated the CM’s chair.

“Let’s not be under any illusion. It is easy to win Lok Sabha elections using Narendra Modi’s name, but at the state level, we can’t do it with his name alone. We need to show our work. We need to take our developmental work to the people to win seats in the next election,” the former CM said at the meeting in Davanagere.

Davanagere is the same place where Home Minister Amit Shah had, in September, endorsed the leadership of Basavaraj Bommai, who became CM after Yediyurappa’s resignation in July. Shah said the party would go to the next polls, scheduled for 2023, under Bommai. 

Yediyurappa also warned the BJP about its performance in upcoming by-elections. 

“Our next trial by fire is bypolls to the two assembly constituencies of Hanagal and Sindhagi. If we do not win those two seats, you can imagine what kind of message will be sent,” Yediyurappa said. However, he quickly encouraged party workers to “teach the Congress a lesson” by winning both seats. 

The former chief minister also alleged that state Congress president D.K. Shivakumar has been reaching out to BJP MLAs and wooing them. “The party should not take the opposition lightly. Don’t underestimate the opposition, who have their own calculations and estimates. They have already approached some of our MLAs,” Yediyurappa claimed. 

Yediyurappa also raked up the Nanjangud temple demolition issue, and with Chief Minister Bommai looking on, he said the party won’t allow any such demolitions. “We have decided that such demolitions won’t take place any more. We will appeal in courts against the decision to demolish such structures. I appeal to all our workers to not be disillusioned,” Yediyurappa said. 

A source close to the former CM told ThePrint that the speech was well thought out. “All comments came with intent and straight from his heart,” the source said. 


Also read: JD(S) wins even when it doesn’t. And Karnataka BJP & Congress can’t seem to do anything about it


Embers of resentment continue to burn

Yediyurappa’s remarks came a day after Arun Singh, the BJP general secretary in-charge of Karnataka, announced that the party will depute three or four teams to go on a statewide tour. The tour was initially announced by Yediyurappa as an individual exercise after he was asked to exit the chief minister’s office. 

Anticipating trouble if the veteran Lingayat mass leader undertakes a yatra by himself, the BJP seems to have decided to make it a party affair, with four leaders touring different parts of the state. 

Yediyurappa will lead one of the teams, while state BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel and former CMs Jagadish Shettar and Sadananda Gowda are expected to lead the other three.

Sources close to Yediyurappa said this announcement prompted Yediyurappa’s Sunday statement. They added that despite the 78-year-old Lingayat strongman’s continued stance that he will back the party, the BJP has not extended a hand of assurance, which has left him miffed. 

“B.S. Yediyurappa announced the statewide tour to build the party but the BJP too must show some signs of accommodating him and taking him along. Such things haven’t happened so far,” said a senior party functionary close to the former CM. 

The BJP, however, is in no mood to allow the leader to assert himself. “B.S. Yediyurappa grew in stature because the party gave him the opportunity to do so. The party will decide how and when it wants to use his talents. If a tour is what it takes, then the party will decide its course, not any individual,” a senior member of the party’s national leadership told ThePrint days ahead of the executive meeting. 

“Someone like him should be given responsibility like a Governor’s post and sent away, lest he starts creating trouble,” a senior RSS leader-turned-minister in the Karnataka cabinet had told ThePrint days after Yediyurappa’s exit.

The feeling, if anything, is only growing stronger among Yediyurappa’s baiters in the party. 

Demanding dues, staying relevant 

Those from Yediyurappa’s close circle told ThePrint that ever since he resigned as chief minister, he hasn’t personally received a word of consolation from the central BJP leadership. The party, they say, has let him down despite his dedication. 

“Amit Shah’s public statement in Davanagere praising B.S. Yediyurappa’s work was pretty much the only time anyone from the central leadership has spoken of him or to him since he resigned,” a close associate of the former chief minister told ThePrint. 

Now that the BJP has decided on how the statewide tour should be planned, how the party is able to incorporate Yediyurappa, given that it was his idea, will lay the foundation for the future. 

“At a time when Congress leaders are visiting one district after another, we have to fight unitedly. Yediyurappa is still the mass leader of the Lingayats. He doesn’t need to criticise the BJP; even if he refrains from pitching for the party, we will lose votes,” said a BJP office-bearer in Karnataka. 

“It won’t take a shift in the entire voting pattern to cost us seats. Even if just 5 per cent of votes sway, it will dent us severely,” he added. “Age is not on his side to revolt like he did in 2013, but that doesn’t mean he is weak.”  

Those in favour of the former CM warn that if he is sidelined, the electoral impact will be felt in the Sindagi and Hanagal bypolls. But not everyone in the party agrees. Neither do political analysts. 

“He will continue to be present as a force and influence. He will very much be there for the purpose of optics when people acknowledge him as a mentor, father figure, leader etc. But Yediyurappa also realises that it is better to accept the sunset than force it on yourself,” Dr Sandeep Shastri, political analyst and National Coordinator of Lokniti Network told ThePrint.  

“This has been the plan since 2019 when he took oath as chief minister for the fourth time. B.S. Yediyurappa has developed political fatigue and that sets in when you know that the party and its central leadership today is different,” Shastri added. “You realise you should reconcile yourself to it and in that process, extract whatever advantage you can without pushing the boundaries too far.” 

Much like many younger BJP leaders, Shastri believes that the decision on Yediyurappa’s role in the state BJP did not come about recently. “It is a well-calculated move from their end,” he added. 

The former chief minister is said to be more patient than irate for now to see how things pan out for his younger son, state BJP vice-president B.Y. Vijayendra. 

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)


Also read: ‘We didn’t even spare Gandhi’: Hindu Mahasabha ‘leader’ threatens CM Bommai over temple demolition


 

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