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Yeddyurappa: BJP's man of the moment
Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore

B S Yeddyurappa
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Coverage: The political crisis in Karnataka

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November 08, 2007

In the crisis-ridden confusion that gripped Karnataka these past few weeks, there was one man the spotlight kept returning to.

B S Yeddyurappa knows that when he becomes the state's new chief minister, he will create history. He will be the first head of a Bharatiya Janata Party government in south India.

Yeddyurappa, who was born on February 27, 1943, is credited with singlehandedly building up the BJP in Karnataka. His aides say, even during his days as a municipal corporator, he worked relentlessly for the development of first the Jan Sangh, and then its child, the BJP.

An agriculturist before he stepped into the political fray, Yeddyurappa was elected councillor to the Shikaripura town muncipality in 1975. His first taste of big time politics came the same year when he was arrested during the Emergency. He remained behind bars for almost two years; this was when he came in touch with national leaders like L K Advani who were also in prison in Karnataka.

His friends say the kind of dedication he brings to his work is inspirational. However, in his battle to improve the BJP's vote base in Karnataka, he often tends to ignore his personal life. An arts graduate, Yeddyurappa has two sons and three daughters, none of whom are in politics.

Those who point to his drawbacks say Yeddyurappa's temper has made him many enemies, both in political and bureaucratic circles. The bureaucrats, in particular, complain it is difficult to work with Yeddyurappa. His aides say his urgency to get work done tends to get misunderstood. They say he only loses his temper when work is not done in the stipulated time.

Yeddyurappa, a four time MLA from Shikharipura, became Leader of the Opposition in 2000, 30 years after he first entered politics. And when, post-elections in 2004, the Congress went on to form the government with the help of the H D Deve Gowda-led Janata Dal (Secular), it looked like Yeddyurappa would have to settle down for another long wait.

It was a bitter defeat for the BJP -- despite being the single largest party in the Karnataka assembly with 79 seats, it was forced to sit in the Opposition.

But, in early 2006, in an unexpected move, Deve Gowda's younger son, H D Kumaraswamy, split the JD (S), toppled the Dharam Singh-led government and became chief minister of a coalition government that included the BJP. The agreement between the two parties was that, like in Kashmir, the JD (S) would rule for 20 months and the BJP would rule for the next 20 months. (To know more, click here).

However, when the time came to hand over power, Kumaraswamy and his father -- who had by now forgiven his errant son -- balked, leading to the political crisis that was finally resolved on Thursday when the Union Cabinet revoked President's Rule, and led the governor to invite Yeddyurappa to form a government.

Ironically, despite being the most visible face of the BJP -- along with former Union minister Ananth Kumar -- Yeddyurappa was not promoted as the chief ministerial candidate prior to the 2004 election. Ananth Kumar was seen as the face of the party as he held important portfolios in the Vajpayee government. However, when Ananth Kumar expressed his desire to continue at the central level, the mantle fell on Yeddyurappa.

The relationship between Ananth Kumar and Yeddyurappa has had its share of ups and downs. Sources say their relationship worsened after the BJP lost the Lok Sabha election in May 2004, following which Ananth Kumar showed interest in state-level politics. By then, most of the BJP's Karnataka unit had accepted Yeddyurappa as their leader; Ananth Kumar had no choice but to take a back seat.

Yeddyurappa took charge as deputy chief minister in the JD (S)-BJP government. He also held additional charge as finance minister and, according to many, presented one of the best budgets Karnataka has seen so far.

Yeddyurappa may like to attribute the change in his fortunes to his astrologer, on whose advice he changed the way his name was spelt from Yediyurappa to Yeddyurappa.

What can one expect when Yeddyurappa becomes chief minister?

Many say there is not much he can do considering he will need to keep the JD (S) happy if he wants to remain in power.

Unlike what happened during Congress leader S M Krishna's reign, an element of balance is expected when Yeddyurappa sits in the chief minister's chair. The allegation against Krishna was that he was too focused on Bangalore and did everything possible to keep the IT sector happy. Kannadigas who lived outside Bangalore felt ignored by Krishna, who is now the governor of Maharashtra.

Political pundits feel Yedduyrappa may have made a mistake by returning to align with the JD (S) after he was betrayed by that party's leadership. When the JD (S), which was to transfer power to the BJP at the end of 20 months, failed to do so Yeddyurappa termed it a big betrayal and announced that the BJP would seek the mandate of the people.

Later, when the JD (S) again began to show interest in forming a government with the BJP, Yeddyurappa was accused of forgetting what had happened and meekly accepting the offer. Whatever sympathy was there for him, and for the BJP, has perhaps evaporated now, particularly since many believe Yeddyurappa's persistence forced the BJP's central leadership to rethink an alliance with the JD(S).

While Kerala [Images] is ruled by either a Congress-led front or a Communist-led front, Tamil Nadu is controlled by either the DMK or the AIADMK. In Andhra Pradesh, the fight is between the Telugu Desam Party and the Congress. Karnataka is the BJP's only hope in south India. Whether this will be the first of many inroads the BJP will make in south India, or whether it will be a flash in the pan, will depend on how Yedduyrappa handles the post of chief minister... and the tricky task of dealing with Deve Gowda's fickle clan.

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