Setting Right the Wrong of Injustice to Yeddi
Seven years happen to be a long time in Indian politics. In December 2012, I had interviewed BS Yediyurappa, Karnataka’s new Chief Minister, for this magazine (http://22.214.171.124/udayIndiaArchive/english/content_15december2012/cover-story.html). That time he had just left the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and was preparing the launching of a new party of his own, Karnataka Janata Pakshya (KJP). He was really a bitter man those days. Arguably, the man who had built the BJP singlehandedly over the years in Karnataka, he was asked to resign as the Chief Minister of the state by the then central BJP leadership under the pretext of fighting corruption. However, the real reason for his removal then was internal bickering within the Karnataka wing of the BJP, clearly under the direction of a very powerful central leader of the party.
As he told me, the vested interests in the BJP central leadership always wanted to keep him on perpetual tenterhooks, lest he became a powerful and strong Chief Minister like his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi. He was of the view that if Modi had done a wonderful job as Chief Minister, it was because he had managed to insulate himself and his government from the pulls, pressures and constant pinpricks from the BJP, both in the state and central levels. Unfortunately, he did not succeed in doing that in Karnataka. It is a well-known fact that the brain and spine behind the rebellion of the notorious Reddy brothers (mining barons) that nearly brought down his government was none other than late Ananth Kumar, a favourite of the party stalwart L K Advani. “I have repeatedly said that Ananth Kumar has spoilt the mind of Advani. Ananth Kumar nurses the ambition of becoming the Chief Minister. There is nothing wrong in that ambition but it should be through a proper process of getting projected before the polls and then win”, Yeddurappa added.
It was no secret that Ananth Kumar was conspiring from day one to first defame and then get Yediyurappa out of chief minister’s post. There is an element of truth that Ananth Kumar could have used Advani’s name to bring pressure on the then Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde, a great admirer of the BJP veteran, to indict Yediyurappa in his report. And it was on the basis of this highly prejudiced and unfair report of Justice Santosh Hegde that Yediyurappa’s resignation was obtained, a clear case of deep-rooted conspiracy for which Yediyurappa fell a victim. It was ironical that the same report had been quashed by the Karnataka High Court, after which Yediyurappa ought to have been reinstated. But the “conspirators” had decided not to entertain him once again. That was the beginning of the end of Yediyurappa’s stint in the BJP.
For me it will always remain a huge riddle that a veteran like L K Advani, whose contribution to building up the BJP as a party of national consequence will always be cherished, did not play the role of an integrator by taking everybody along in his last few years in active politics. He was increasingly becoming a partisan, evident from the manner he dealt with the situations involving Yediyurappa and Modi, then the most effective chief ministers of the party in two important states in the country. In fact, many in the BJP considered his hatred for Yediyurappa astonishing, particularly after the way he promoted Yediyurappa’s principal rival Ananth Kumar, who, incidentally, if public perception goes, was one of the most dubious ministers in the Vajpayee regime.
All told, Yediyurappa was a competent Chief Minister. Many in Karnataka believe that compared to other chief ministers in the state, he was “least corrupt”. After all, while dealing with his case, the Karnataka High Court had made an interesting point that all the allegations against him did not necessarily mean that he committed any crime. Yediyurappa’s notifications and denotifications of lands, that Lokayukt Hegde found problematic, were within his “discretionary power” as the Chief Minister, a power which every Chief Minister elsewhere has had. One does not know what Advani thinks of the rapid urbanisation in NOIDA and Gurgaon in the vicinity of Delhi, made possible by the same discretionary power that various chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have exercised umpteen times.
Be that as it may, all that was seven years ago. A true fighter that he is, Yediyurappa proved his worth when his KJP hurt the BJP badly in 2013 Assembly polls, leading to the Congress victory. Subsequently, with Modi’s ascendance in BJP hierarchy and due to the then BJP President Rajnath Singh’s pragmatism, he returned to the BJP. Under his leadership in Karnataka, the BJP swept the Lok Sabha polls both in 2014 and 2019 (this time the victory, with added Modi-factor, became overwhelming).
True, in the last Assembly elections last year, and this was again because of the internal feud, mainly the Anant Kumar factor, the party did not get the required majority to form a stable government. But then it was the Yediyurappa-factor that ensured that form having 40 seats in the last Assembly, the BJP went up to have 104, just eight short of the majority mark in the assembly of 222 ( elections were to be held in two more seats). On the other hand, the Congress strength came down to 78 from 122. And here, the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah lost in one constituency and barely managed to win the other (he had contested from two seats). More interestingly, he was defeated by a candidate of the JD(S). On the other hand, the JD(S), which had 40 seats in the last Assembly, came down to have 37 this time.
That the two parties joined hands to form a government by saying that the popular mandate was for them and against the BJP proved to be a joke, as subsequent events proved. This post-poll alliance was neither “moral” nor “popular”. In fact, a Facebook post by a friend of mine was quite instructive on this. He wrote how by getting 38 marks, JD (S) got the first rank (chief ministership); with 78 marks Congress achieved the second rank; but with 104 marks the BJP remained on the third position!
Under these circumstances, it was only a matter of time that the coalition government would fall. Yeddyurppa has regained the chief ministership which was only logical ( something the Governor had done by inviting him to become the Chief Minister as the leader of the largest single party soon after the election results were out in 2018. That the unscrupulous alliance managed to usurp power under Kumaraswamy for about a year is a different matter).
It is true that the new ministry of Yeddyrappa does not have the required majority in the Assembly to provide the people of Karnataka a stable government for the next four years and everything depends on the results of 17 by polls that are to be held shortly. The Chief Minister is confident that the BJP will be victorious in majority of them. He may prove to be right as the alternative of Congress-JD(S) alliance does not inspire any confidence any longer, given the way the two parties have worked over the last one year.
And this time, with Modi at the helm of affairs, Yediyurappa may have lesser headache from the rivals within the party, particularly when Anant Kumar is no longer in the scene. All told, he is the tallest leader of the BJP in Karnataka, a fact well realised by the central BJP-leadership. No other BJP leader may hold the party together in the state the way he can. That explains why despite his advanced age of 76, the party has made an exception of its recent practice of not allowing leaders above 75 to remain in active politics. Yediyurappa has become the Chief Minister once again. Besides, it is really nice of Modi to set right the injustice that was meted out to Yediyurappa in 2012 by the then BJP leadership.
By Prakash Nanda