End of the Road for BJP’s Poster Boy Yediyurappa? As Top Brass Keeps Cards Close to Chest, What We Know So Far

Will he, won’t he? The Karnataka cauldron has been simmering ever since buzz gained momentum of chief minister BS Yediyurappa being shown the door after completing two years in the role. While the BJP top brass has maintained a radio silence on the issue — except party chief JP Nadda lauding BSY’s contribution to the state — the chief minister has hinted at an imminent exit and said he will follow the instructions of the high command. As the Karnataka government under BSY completes two years today, News18 takes a look at the chief minister’s journey so far and what his ouster could mean for the southern state.

BSY – BJP’s Poster Boy in the South

Differences between HD Kumaraswamy and Yediyurappa led to the fall of the coalition government between the BJP and JDS in 2007, which led to imposition of the President’s Rule for over five-and-a-half months. The drama unfolded as HDK refused to give up the CM’s chair to BSY, forcing the BJP to withdraw support from the government. HDK soon came to an agreement and let BSY become the chief minister, soon pulling out following a fall-out over ministry allocations. Yediyurappa got just a week as the CM before Article 356 was imposed on November 19, 2007.

However, it was too early to write off BSY who scripted history in the 2008 assembly elections when he defeated former CM S Bangarappa from the Shikaripura seat though the latter was backed by the Congress and the JD(S). BSY won by a huge margin and became the harbinger of change for BJP in southern India.

Even as he became chief minister in 2008, his tenure was marred by allegations of illegal mining and corruption, forcing him to put down his papers in 2011. Later, he launched his own party – Karnataka Janata Paksha – and became a Member of Legislative Assembly from the same seat but his loyalty to the BJP made him merge his outfit with the saffron party and he won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on a BJP ticket and became a Member of Parliament from the Shivamogga constituency.

BSY was appointed state unit chief in 2016 and was fielded as the chief ministerial candidate in the 2018 Assembly elections where BJP emerged as the single largest party. Yediyurappa again took oath as chief minister but his dream was short-lived as he had to resign within 3 days after the Congress and the JD(S) entered into a coalition and emerged as the majority camp, marking the return of HDK.

However, luck seemed to be on BSY’s side as the Congress-JDS coalition crumbled and BSY once again became the frontrunner to stake a claim as the Chief Minister of Karnataka in 2019.

The Lingayat Factor

Since news of BSY’s departure, the Lingayats — state’s single-largest community — have been rallying around him. At nearly 17 per cent of the population, mostly in the north Karnataka region, Lingayats are known to include firm supporters of the BJP and Yediyurappa. The Lingayats, a Hindu Shaivite community, deify Basavanna who fought for equality in society. The community can determine the outcome of polls in as many as 90-100 of the state’s 224 assembly constituencies.

Why Lingayat Mutts Matter

There are more than 500 mutts in the state, most of whom are often visited by politicians across party lines during and after elections. The All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha, a Lingayat organisation with a grassroots presence in 22 districts, especially in the Lingayat heartland in North Karnataka, has rallied behind Yediyurappa.

Amid talks of leadership change, many seers have visited the CM personally for the past four days. One of the prominent Lingayat seers, Sri Sangana Basava Swami of Kottur Veerashaiva Shivayoga Mandir, alleged “an RSS conspiracy” behind the plans to remove Yediyurappa.

The community has backed the BJP and its leader Yediyurappa since the turn of the century after the Congress lost its influence on the community in the 1990s on account of its shabby treatment of leaders such as former chief minister Veerendra Patil.

What BSY Says

Yediyurappa on Sunday informed that he was expecting suggestions from the central leadership by evening. “You’ll (media) also come to know what it will be. High command will decide about it, I am not concerned about it (on appointing Dalit CM),” he said. He further said that he had not received any instructions from the high command yet and would wait and follow their direction.

According to PTI, Yediyurappa said that he had offered to resign two months ago and reiterated that he would continue in the post if the high command so desired and quit if they asked him to resign. “I will work for the party day and night for the next 10- 15 years. Let there be no doubt about it,” he said.

Who are the frontrunners to replace BSY?

Names of Murgesh R Nirani, Basavaraj Bommai, Aravind Bellad, Pralhad Joshi, BL Santhosh and CT Ravi have been doing the rounds as potential replacements for the 78-year-old strongman.

The albatross around BJP’s neck

As Yediyurappa flexes his muscle with not just seers but even leaders in the opposition seeking his continuation as chief minister, the BJP faces a tough call. The saffron party, which has been aiming for a generational shift in politics — as was visible in PM Narendra Modi’s latest cabinet reshuffle — will have to accommodate the aspirations of the younger lot which is gunning for BSY, while keeping the Lingayat factor in mind.

When can we expect a decision?

The BJP is likely to take a call on BSY’s future on Monday when the Karnataka government completes two years under the 78-year-old.

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