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Tough days ahead for Yediyurappa

By Aditi Phadnis
Last updated on: June 21, 2021 07:57 IST
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The Modi-Shah duo are standing with B S Yediyurappa: But B L Santhosh refuses to be silenced.
Aditi Phadnis reports.

IMAGE: B S Yediyurappa addresses the media in Bengaluru. Photograph: ANI Photo
 

Strange things are happening.

Jitin Prasada crosses over from the Congress to the Bharatiya Janata Party, but UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath hears of it on television.

In Karnataka, of the four assembly and one Lok Sabha constituencies that had bypolls in May, B S Yediyurappa manages to win three assembly seats and the Lok Sabha seat for the BJP, but party leaders still troop to Delhi and demand he be replaced.

True, the margin of victory in the Lok Sabha seat (vacated by the death of Union minister Suresh Angadi) was wafer-thin (down from 350,000 to 5,400).

But the BJP's tally in the Lok Sabha is unaffected.

Mr Yediyurappa, however, still had to face the humiliation of having to answer reporters on June 6, when they asked him if he would continue to be chief minister of Karnataka, given the outcry for his replacement.

His answer was perplexing. He said that as long as he had the backing of the high command, he would remain in his post.

But wasn't it the legislature party that had elected him chief minister?

So why should he have felt the need to invoke the high command?

The reason is, when it comes to Karnataka, there is more than one high command.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah was in Karnataka in January.

When asked about a change in leadership, he was characteristically blunt.

He said: 'A number of development works have been taken up in Karnataka and the state is marching on the development path under Yediyurappa's leadership. It will continue to do so.'

Despite this, dissenters enjoy powerful patrons in Delhi. And no one checks them.

Senior MLA Basanagouda Yatnal has charged Mr Yediyurappa with 'dynastic politics and corruption'.

Senior minister and former deputy chief minister K S Eshwarappa has written to the governor, complaining the chief minister is interfering in his department.

Mr Yatnal and five other MLAs have written an open letter against the chief minister's proposed decision to transfer land to steel major JSW in Ballari, though this was a decision taken by the cabinet in pursuance of a court order.

About three weeks ago, half a dozen MLAs and a senior minister were in Delhi again, seeking a change.

While here, they met the other half of the high command: BJP Organising Secretary B L Santhosh, who has come to the BJP from the RSS to be that organisation's (RSS's) eyes and ears in the BJP.

Those loyal to Mr Yediyurappa are asking why the party hasn't taken action against all these acts of indiscipline.

Silence is complicity. And why are some senior party leaders sitting in Delhi and fanning the flames?

A Karnataka party veteran reads it like this: The first pracharak to become chief minister was Narendra Modi; he was followed by M L Khattar, who became chief minister of Haryana.

Being 'lent' by the RSS to the BJP meant one taboo had been broken and politics was no longer a dirty word for an individual, trained to think the RSS was limited to being a socio-cultural organisation.

So there's ambition there, and unquenched ambition can drive a man to aspire to anything: Including the chief ministership of Karnataka.

There are other subtle influences at work. Mr Yediyurappa, Mr Santhosh, and the new RSS general secretary, Dattatreya Hosabale, all have one thing in common. They are from Shimoga.

For Mr Santhosh, Mr Yediyurappa is not some remote figure living in a distant castle. He's the boy next door, in a manner of speaking.

No one in the party disagrees that of all BJP leaders, it is only Mr Yediyurappa who has a presence all over the state.

But there are critics aplenty. In 2016, when he was made party president, he had to manage enormous friction within his party.

Mr Eshwarappa, from the Kuruba (shepherd) caste, went to great lengths to mobilise his caste, offering it as a social coalition to fight the might of both the Lingayats (Mr Yediyurappa) and Vokkaligas (H D Deve Gowda).

Sadananda Gowda, a Vokkaliga, and Jagadish Shettar, a fellow Lingayat, had many complaints.

In B L Santhosh, they found a patient and sympathetic listener.

In this house of cards-type politics, the Modi-Shah duo are standing with Mr Yediyurappa: But Mr Santhosh refuses to be silenced.

Yediyurappa supporters believe this is part of a conspiracy to use the chief minister and later discard him.

But Mr Yediyurappa is perfectly capable of giving back as good as he gets.

Assembly elections to Karnataka are not till 2023.

A lot can happen in the intervening period. But the BJP has to decide what it wants, first.

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Aditi Phadnis
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