Since July, Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa has not been able to meet PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to discuss cabinet expansion, indicating the rocky relationship he has with the central leadership. Yediyurappa has been under pressure to accommodate in his government at least 11 rebel MLAs, who had helped topple the Congress-JD(S) government in the state.
ThePrint asks: Do Modi-Shah risk losing another state by undermining B.S. Yediyurappa in Karnataka?
BJP owes Yediyurappa for bringing it to power in Karnataka. It can’t afford to dislodge him from CM post
Dinesh Gundu Rao
President, Karnataka Congress
B.S. Yediyurappa asserts himself, unlike BJP’s other chief ministers. He used his own resources to help topple the Congress-JD(S) alliance last year and was the main architect of the BJP’s Operation Kamal. In a way, the BJP owes him for bringing it to power in Karnataka. If PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah dislodge Yediyurappa from Karnataka CM’s post, it will be disastrous for the BJP because the party has no other mass leader to replace him.
The BJP has lost terribly in several state elections in the last one year because people are discontent with its state governments. The BJP’s arrogance due to being in power and its desire for absolute control have disconnected it from the ground reality. There is no communication in the party.
The BJP was expected to form the government in Maharashtra in November 2019, but didn’t treat its alliance partner Shiv Sena well. In Jharkhand, the party didn’t want an alliance at all and ended up failing there too.
This attitude of ‘my way or the highway’ will hamper the BJP chances of in future assembly elections too. I don’t think the party has a chance in Delhi or Bihar assembly elections. The BJP’s idea of forcefully imposing policies and putting restrictions on the public has met with protests nationwide, and this will affect its poll prospects.
Yediyurappa wants rebel MLAs in cabinet due to political compulsions. It’s the only option BJP has
Karnataka BJP Spokesperson
During the 2018 assembly election in Karnataka, the BJP emerged as the party with maximum seats but without power. B.S. Yediyurappa, who comes from the most influential community in the state, was the tallest political leader in the BJP and he saw an opportunity to approach disgruntled MLAs from other parties, be it the Congress, the JD(S) or independent legislators. The BJP naturally followed this path because it was experiencing a sluggish political atmosphere in the state.
The BJP’s strategy to approach the rebel MLAs should not be criticised — every party is here for political work, not social work. Yediyurappa is compelled to include the rebel MLAs in his cabinet due to political compulsions. It may not be the best cabinet but it’s the only option.
I agree that the delay in Karnataka’s cabinet expansion is hurting the image of the BJP. However, there are critical national issues that the BJP must attend to. The Kashmir situation after the Article 370 move and the NRC-CAA-NPR are all national issues that have coincidentally happened one after another. When Home Minister Amit Shah comes to Hubballi, there will be a proper discussion on how to accommodate the rebel MLAs.
People must not forget that there are already ministers in the Karnataka cabinet who are holding portfolios and tending to various issues like flood relief.
Modi & Shah’s game plan might hurt BJP’s poll prospects in Karnataka unless Yediyurappa concurs with them
Unlike other leaders in BJP-ruled states, B.S. Yediyurappa is someone who built the party from scratch, as an activist. He did not have a godfather or an ideological support to put him in the CM’s chair. This is both his strength and his weakness.
It’s his strength because he commands grassroots support and has proved his mettle as a leader of a regional party, securing nearly 10 per cent vote share and damaging the BJP’s prospects once (in the 2013 Karnataka assembly election). It’s difficult to replace him because of the BJP’s principal stand on age-related leadership. But in Karnataka, there is already a sense that the BJP’s top brass is not aligned with Yediyurappa.
It’s his weakness because the RSS mindset is deferring his leadership in favour of newly-appointed Karnataka BJP chief Nalin Kumar Kateel and this is also popularly discussed in influential circles, perhaps under the guidance of B.L. Santosh.
Given this backdrop, the Modi-Shah game plan might hurt the BJP’s electoral chances in Karnataka unless Yediyurappa concurs with the high command. It is also true that Kateel cannot replace Yediyurappa given his charismatic popularity and his reach. The BJP’s top brass plans to boost the image of a local leader with an investiture ceremony in Bangalore, but this could only end up denting the BJP’s fortunes.
Yediyurappa’s patience can soon snap and cause yet another headache to BJP’s central leadership
Political analyst & National Coordinator, Lokniti Network
Karnataka prides itself on being different and so does its BJP unit. It is possibly the party’s only state unit that has not always been aligned with the national leadership. B.S. Yediyurappa had left the BJP in 2011, ensured it suffered a humiliating defeat at the hustings, and then had the central leadership bring him back before the 2014 Lok Sabha election. He was an exception to the BJP’s rule of not picking candidates above 75 years of age.
The BJP had declared Yediyurappa as its CM face for the 2018 Karnataka assembly election. When the Congress-JD(S) government fell in July 2019, Yediyurappa was the BJP’s choice. Even if the central leadership did not favour him or may have preferred a fresh election, the BJP had little choice but to pick him for the CM post considering his popularity in Karnataka.
Ever since he took office on 26 July 2019, Yediyurappa has had problems with the BJP’s central unit, with which he has had to always align. Three deputy chief ministers who were not his choice were thrust upon him. There is also the factor of new defectors to the BJP demanding their promised ministerial rewards. Considering this and Yediyurappa’s history of rebelling against the party, cabinet expansion has continually been delayed in Karnataka.
But Yediyurappa’s patience can soon snap and cause yet another headache to the BJP’s central leadership.
By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint