Radhika Ramaseshan reports on why the Karnataka chief minister risked crossing swords with his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and its ideological wellspring, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa went with the general tide running through the southern states, spoke up against faith profiling in the aftermath of the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) episode, and earned kudos from the Opposition.
In the process, he risked crossing swords with his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and its ideological wellspring, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The TJ's large congregation in Delhi's Nizamuddin, attended by the sect's adherents from all over India and the world, became a major controversy after several participants were found infected with coronavirus and became vectors among larger communities.
While the TJ was justifiably criticised for the irresponsibility it displayed by hosting a gathering amid the pandemic, the episode led to a virulent attack on the Muslims in the mainstream and virtual media, as well as by politicians.
Shobha Karandlaje, Yediyurappa's political confidante and Udupi-Chikmagalur MP, led the anti-Muslim chorus.
She was joined by BJP legislators MP Renukacharya, who is also Yediyurappa's political secretary, and Basanagouda Patil Yatnal.
Together, they constructed a narrative that painted the pandemic as 'corona jihad' and warned the Muslims of 'death by bullet' if they evaded quarantine or misbehaved with doctors and paramedics at hospitals.
It was a defining moment for the CM who had to either support or rebuff the BJP's minority baiters.
"There was a trend that all the southern CMs followed during the TJ fallout. Every one of them -- K Chandrasekhar Rao, Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, E K Palaniswami and Pinarayi Vijayan -- stressed the incident must not be communalised.
"They were joined by Shiv Sena's Uddhav Thackeray (Maharashtra CM). In these circumstances, Yediyurappa demonstrated he was a leader," remarked a Bengaluru-based political observer.
The CM called an all-party meeting and separately met Muslim leaders and MLAs.
In his interaction with the latter, he exhorted upon the Muslims to pray at their homes and not mosques for some time and share details of TJ members who attended the Delhi event.
"They are cooperating," Yediyurappa was quoted saying.
A BJP source explained: "If you don't demonise a religion or stigmatise a community and induce fear, people of all faiths will voluntarily come forward and share their histories.
"That's why Yediyurappa decided to go against the party's grain. It helped that other leaders later supported him."
BJP President J P Nadda, too, directed party leaders to refrain from giving a 'communal colour' to the pandemic.
A day after his meeting with the Muslims, Yediyurappa told a Kannada news channel: "Nobody should speak a word against the Muslims. If anyone blames an entire community for an isolated incident, I will take action against them without a second thought."
"He was annoyed with Shobha and Renukacharya for going ballistic," a BJP source said.
However, Shobha and Renukacharya were unrepentant. Shobha claimed: "I spoke the truth... We (the government) are not going enough after the culprits."
Renukacharya claimed: "I am not blaming an entire community. Those who don't come for a test are anti-national."
A Yediyurappa aide maintained Shobha's stance was 'provoked' by the 'alienation' she increasingly felt in the Karnataka dispensation after 'calling the shots' in the previous BJP regimes.
"This is because Yediyurappa's younger son (B Y Vijayendra) has acquired a strong hold over his father," said the aide.
Yediyurappa's stand on the TJ controversy did provoke some backlash in the BJP -- a section which allegedly included 'active' members of its IT cells, were upset and pushed the #WeLostHopeBSY trend on Twitter.
Although the hashtag inspired a counter in #IStandWithBSY, BJP sources conceded there was 'no way' Yediyurappa could ignore the dissent against his leadership.
"He was under pressure to soften the line but he did not relent. He thinks the whole thing will blow over," the aide maintained.
Since he installed himself as the CM by engineering a majority with the help of Congress and Janata Dal-Secular defectors, Yediyurappa was hemmed in by problems.
Although he withstood them, he awaits the big test in pacifying the BJP loyalists who were left out of his Cabinet.
In the last expansion, he inducted 10 of the 12 MLAs who were re-elected in the by-elections and all of them were turncoats.