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Yediyurappa can’t be without BJP, BJP can’t be without Yediyurappa, says son Vijayendra

B.Y. Vijayendra, the Karnataka BJP vice-president, says Yediyurappa and BJP are synonymous; CM will complete term, deliver what he promised to people.

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Bengaluru: “Yediyurappa cannot be without BJP, just like the BJP can’t be without Yediyurappa,” an emotional B.Y. Vijayendra, vice-president of the Karnataka BJP, and son of Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa (BSY), told ThePrint in an exclusive  interview. The leader firmly believes that his father will continue as the chief minister and rumours of his removal do not have an ‘iota” of truth in them.

For more than a year now, there has been speculation about a change of guard in Karnataka. Senior BJP MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal has also claimed that he has knowledge that Yediyurappa will be asked to step down by May this year.

“There are those who feel that if they attack Yediyurappa, they are indirectly hurting the image of the BJP. Yediyurappa and the BJP are synonymous and every attempt to denigrate him or the party has been thwarted until now. Take it from me in writing, Yediyurappa ji will complete his full term and deliver what he promised to the people,” Vijayendra said.

The state BJP vice-president has been camping in northern Karnataka where two assembly seats, Basavakalyan and Maski — and the Lok Sabha seat of Belagavi — go for by-elections on 17 April, for the past fortnight. Both seats are Congress strongholds.

Maski fell vacant after former Congress MLA, Prathapgouda Patil, resigned and moved to the BJP in 2018 and in September 2020, Basavakalyan fell vacant after Congress MLA Narayana Rao passed away. The state BJP unit had its task cut out. In both places differences between local BJP leaders and party workers was affecting the fortunes of the party. Having ironed out these differences, Vijayendra hit the streets, campaigning for 12-14 hours daily for the party.

He is confident that the BJP will win both Maski and Basavakalyan bypolls.

Also read: ‘The de facto CM’ — Yediyurappa backing son Vijayendra sparks dissent in Karnataka BJP   

On row with Eshwarappa 

Speaking from Maski over phone, Vijayendra said, “It is like if you throw a stone at Yediyurappa, you are throwing a stone at the BJP”.

Replying to a question on Yatnal’s comments on the change in leadership in the state, Vijayendra stated that neither the state unit nor the party leaders at the centre have asked Yediyurappa to step down.

“Everybody has their own opinion. In the BJP, the final decision is taken by the high command and everyone should come together and follow it. While we should be ready to take in all kinds of opinions, we should ensure we adhere to what the party leaders tell us,” he said.

When asked about the recent row between K.S. Eshwarappa and Yediyurappa — state’s Rural Development and Panchayati Raj minister Eshwarappa had accused the chief minister of  authoritarianism — Vijayendra said the issue could have been resolved through a discussion.

“It could have been avoided. The issue could have been sorted out by sitting across a table. Unfortunately, that did not happen. The embarrassment could have been avoided. Both are stalwarts in the party and have built the BJP together,” he said.

Relations between Eshwarappa and Yediyurappa have been strained for many decades. The former has been at odds with the chief minister on several issues in the past, including the selection of B.Y. Raghavendra, Yediyurappa’s eldest son, as the BJP candidate for Shivamogga in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. However, Eshwarappa’s letter submitted to Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala on 31 March, accusing Yediyurappa of interference and authoritarianism, has left the BJP top brass embarrassed.

A state minister writing to the governor with complaints against the chief minister has been described as unprecedented by many. While the BJP’s national leadership has publicly criticised the letter, there are voices within the party that have said that there was a need to “expose Yediyurappa’s wrongdoings”.

There has also been speculation that the letter couldn’t have been written by Eshwarappa without a furtive nod from the BJP top brass.

Also read: Media trying to glorify Vijayendra, Karnataka minister says as CM son gets credit for Sira win

On corruption charges against his father

Yediyurappa has also been troubled by two corruption cases filed against him.

In March this year, the Karnataka High Court vacated the stay on a criminal case registered against the chief minister in 2019, for allegedly trying to woo Janata Dal (S) MLA Naganagouda Kandkur’s son, Sharanagouda, to the BJP by offering him money and a berth in the council of ministers. An audio tape was released by then chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy in the presence of Sharanagouda to prove the allegation.

In the same month, the state HC also ordered the restoration of an old case against Yediyurappa, for alleged corruption in denotification of land between 2008 and 2012, when the BJP was in power.

Yediyurappa had, in January, obtained a stay order on arrest in the case from the Supreme Court. The chief minister has also raised the question as to whether “a court can proceed under Prevention of Corruption Act against a public servant without prior sanction on the ground that he had allegedly demitted office which he was alleged to have abused”.

Vijayendra feels that every case file against his father, be it of graft, illegal mining or corruption, has been “politically motivated”, and that if every decision made by him as chief minister is made into a criminal case, the politician would be fighting 500 cases .

“He has come clear of 30 cases till date. If every administrative order is challenged by a criminal case, he would be fighting 500 cases or more. If every order is questioned, then every CM will be fighting cases in court. Those with an agenda against him removed Yediyurappa ji in 2011. They tried to weaken the BJP. This time around it is a repetition of the same strategy. It will not work,” he added.

Replying to whether his father is politically fatigued – the chief minister turned 79 in February – Vijayendra insisted that his father has many more years to go as a politician and has the grit, determination, capability and support to continue as the chief minister of Karnataka.

Also read: Sting op a conspiracy, attempt to de-stabilise BJP govt, says Yediyurappa’s son Vijayendra

On his own political future

The Karnataka BJP vice-president defined himself as a humble worker, who wants to build the party just like his father did.

“When my father started with the BJP in Karnataka, never did he imagine that he would become the chief minister of the state — not once but four times. I too want to work towards strengthening the party and taking it to greater heights.”

The BJP has been battling issues like an agitation by the Panchamasali sect of Lingayats in the Basavakalyan-Maski region. The community has demanded that Yediyurappa fulfil his promise of giving them an OBC tag.

The failure to do it as yet has hurt the BJP’s bypoll campaign here to a certain extent.

Vijayendra, however, is confident of victory.

“The Panchamasali agitation will not impact the by-elections. In Maski and other places, the entire Lingayat and OBC communities are with the BJP,” Vijayendra added.

There is a lot riding on these seats, not only for the party, but also Vijayendra, who has been moving quickly up the party ladder and has drawn the attention of the central leadership. Wresting the KR Pete seat in the Mysore region in the December 2019 by-elections, from the Janata Dal (Secular) (JDS) was seen as a significant milestone in his political career.

But Vijayendra insists that he is not thinking of personal growth.

“I don’t care if I get a ticket to become an MLA or MP. I want to work just like my father,” he told ThePrint.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Why Yediyurappa son’s rise as Karnataka BJP VP is a win-win situation for CM and critics

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