BSY remains indispensable to, synonymous with BJP
By fully backing the leadership of Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa and signalling his continuation in office till the next poll in 2023, the BJP high command has firmly ended all speculations about his successor.
This move has brought certainty to the state government’s direction at a time when Yediyurappa has restored the pre-eminence of the BJP in Karnataka.
Under his leadership, Karnataka has shown that it has overcome the challenges posed by Covid-19, reporting a big fall in the number of cases as well as in faster recovery of patients.
A number of schemes have been launched for the benefit of the weaker sections.
His stewardship has witnessed Karnataka lead South India in vaccinations in the first round.
Despite the pandemic, the state has also captured the top spot among the states in the India Innovation Index for 2020.
It has reported a substantial number of venture capital deals, registered geographical indicators and information and communication technology exports.
On the political side, Yediyurappa ensured that the BJP win 12 of the 15 assembly seats, by-polls for which were held in November 2019, including a seat the party had never won in years.
Also, in the gram panchayat polls two weeks ago, the candidates, who were supported by the BJP, won in about 45,246 seats (out of 86,183). (In 2015, the BJP-supported nominees had won 29,959 seats.) The BJP-backed candidates won a majority in 3,142 of 5,760 gram panchayats as well.
These victories went strongly in favour of Yediyurappa as most of the seats were in the Mysore region where the BJP has always sought to challenge the dominance of Congress and Janata Dal (Secular).
It is against this background that the BJP brass has strongly backed Yediyurappa’s continuance as CM for the full term.
The fact is Yediyurappa remains the party’s tallest leader who is synonymous with the BJP. Any talk of his retirement or departure from active politics is inconceivable.
Therefore, it was no surprise that Yediyurappa had a significant meeting with Union home minister Amit Shah and BJP president JP Nadda recently.
It was during this meeting at Shah’s official residence when Yediyurappa was assured of the party’s complete support in his continuation in office.
Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah have come to view his leadership as indispensable for the current term of the assembly.
Earlier, there has been intense speculation in some quarters that the BJP high command is mulling leadership change in Karnataka in the days to come, considering Yediyurappa’s age.
However, Modi wanted this speculation to come to close. Hence, the word had to go out that Yediyurappa’s services as CM remain indispensable.
As a show of support, Shah attended meetings in Karnataka to declare that Yediyurappa will complete full term in office.
Shah openly told Yediyurappa that he has a free hand in governance, thereby sending a message to dissidents in the state’s BJP unit.
“You have been given a free hand in governance. Ensure that you take the party along and address concerns that have been raised,” Shah said at a function in Belagavi.
“With Modi at the Centre and Yediyurappa in the state, Karnataka has a double engine driving its growth and development on all the fronts. With political stability, the state is set for progress in the coming years,” Shah declared.
Shah’s statement meant Yediyurappa has now been entrusted with steering the state forward and controlling the growing dissidence in the party and taking strict action against those who indulge in anti-party activities.
That means Yediyurappa has got a breather in the face of the pressure being exerted by rebel MLAs to be inducted into the state cabinet.
For sometime, Yediyurappa had been facing a public rebellion from BJP MLAs since he expanded his cabinet.
Over the past few months, he has also faced displeasure expressed by many party colleagues over the induction of rebel Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs who helped bring down the erstwhile Kumaraswamy government.
Despite his years, 78-year-old Yediyurappa has shown that he remains an able chief minister who can reach out to all sections, address various problems and usher in high growth in the state.
His detractors will now have to accept the new reality and work with Yediyurappa. He will be the main face of the BJP till the next elections, which are only two years away.
On his part, Yediyurappa has decided to start travelling across the state, setting a target of winning 140-150 seats.
As a mark of gratitude towards Modi and Shah, Yediyurappa has assured the central BJP leadership that he would strive hard towards “the BJP winning more than 150 seats in the assembly elections to strengthen the hand of Modi in the state.”
During the 2018 assembly
elections, Yediyurappa led-BJP
had got 104 seats, while Congress
and the JD(S) won 78 and 37 seats respectively.
But these parties got together to keep the BJP out of power. They shared power under JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy for 14 months. But the intense bickering between the two parties over the spoils of office saw some of their MLAs quitting to facilitate the return of the BJP to usher in stability for better governance.
After Yediyurappa took charge of the government as CM, the BJP won the subsequent by-polls, taking the party’s strength to 118 members, other than the Speaker, in the 225-member assembly.
Nobody can forget that what Yediyurappa had declared on the floor of the Karnataka assembly moments after resigning as CM before the aborted 2018 Trust vote.
“My hands and legs are strong enough that I can work ten more years,” he had pledged. He proved his strength a year later.
The fact is that the BJP cannot afford to ignore his leadership unless he agrees to bow out on his own–before his self-appointed hour of exit.
Yediyurappa belongs to the founding generation of the BJP’s Karnataka unit. The lotus bloomed in the South for the first time when its first government was formed under his leadership in 2008.
The BJP grew from having just two MLAs in 1985 —Yediyurappa and K Vasantha Bangera — to forming the government on its own twice. Yediyurappa became CM four times.
Some believe that the BJP could have looked for an alternative leader when Yediyurappa left the party to form his own party in 2012. (He later returned to the BJP in 2014.). Both sides realised they needed each other and could not survive without one another. The BJP could revive its fortunes in Karnataka only after Yediyurappa’s return to the party fold. He too found that, without the BJP banner, he cannot win the support of all sections.
In Karnataka, there are three social coalitions at work. One is called LIBRA (Lingayats-Brahmins), the second is what former CM Siddaramaiah’s AHINDA or MOVD (Muslims-OBC-Vokkaligas- Dalits) and 4Bs in the coastal belt (Brahmins-Billavas-Bunts-Baniyas).
Under Yediyurappa, the BJP has created a multi-social coalition, with LIBRA as the dominant one. Without Yediyurappa, this social coalition will collapse.
Yet, the BJP cannot ignore the needs of the future and must see to it that a new crop of leaders are groomed under Yediyurappa’s leadership.
However, some party leaders say Yediyurappa has been lobbying for his son B Y Vijayendra, who is currently the vice-president of the Karnataka BJP unit.
Vijayendra, the youngest son of the CM, was the poll in-charge during the local elections. His organisational capability came into play recently, bringing success for the BJP in the elections for the local self-government bodies.
The CM has been seeking the central leadership’s nod to give him a ticket in the next assembly elections in 2023. Vijayendra’s name for a ticket was withdrawn at the last minute during the 2018 elections after the high command forced Yediyurappa to do so.
But can Vijayendra be denied an opportunity to play a role just because he is the son of Yediyurappa?
The BJP high command has to find ways in which the ambitions of the younger generation is realised. After all, Yediyurappa cannot go on forever.
Since 1980, only two successive governments have completed their full terms — one led by D Devaraj Urs and another by Siddaramaiah. Yediyurappa’s government may be the third one. But Karnataka politics has been undergoing a lot of changes. The BJP must prepare in advance for the challenging times ahead.
By Shekhar Iyer