Ending months of speculation over his exit, B S Yediyurappa on Monday stepped down as the Chief Minister of Karnataka, coinciding with his government completing two years in office, even as suspense continues on his successor.
The 78 year-old Bharatiya Janata Party veteran, who submitted his resignation to Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot at the Raj Bhavan in Bengaluru, said he quit 'voluntarily' and will continue to remain active in state politics.
Asserting that he will 'hundred per cent' continue in politics and work to bring BJP back to power from tomorrow itself, the Lingayat strongman said, "...there is no question of political retirement for any reason. I'm with the karyakartas and the people."
"The party has nurtured me to this level, most probably no other politician in the country has got the privileges that I have got. To a question on whether he will accept if there is an offer to make him the Governor, he said, "Atal Bihari Vajpayee had offered me to become the central minister when he was the PM. I had said no. There is no question of becoming Governor. I will work to strengthen the organisation in Karnataka. I have not asked for any position, nor will I accept it."
Following Monday's developments, the focus now shifts to finding a successor for the BJP veteran, who could lead the government for the remainder of its term and the party to the 2023 assembly polls.
There is no clarity yet as to who the next CM would be.
BJP national general secretary in-charge of Karnataka Arun Singh maintained that the decision is left to the party's parliamentary board and the legislature party.
Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan is likely to be the central observer at the BJP Karnataka legislative party meeting, where the new chief minister will be decided, party sources said.
Among the names doing the rounds are Union Minister Pralhad Joshi, BJP national general secretary C T Ravi, the party's national organising secretary B L Santhosh and the Assembly Speaker Vishveshwar Hegde Kageri.
While Joshi, Santosh and Kageri are Brahmins, Ravi, the MLA from Chikkamagaluru, is a Vokkaliga, another dominant community in the state, mostly concentrated in Southern Karnataka, where the party is trying to make inroads.
If the party looks for replacing Yediyurappa with another leader from the dominant Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, the probables include Mining Minister Murugesh Nirani, Industries Minister Jagadish Shettar and MLAs Arvind Bellad and Basanagouda Patil Yatnal.
While Nirani is a businessman-politician, whose repeated Delhi visits recently have raised eyebrows in party circles, Shettar had earlier served as the chief minister.
Bellad and Yatnal are among the disgruntled legislators who were seeking Yediyurappa's ouster.
Among the Ministers who were in the Yediyurappa cabinet, the names of Home Minister Basavaraj S Bommai (Lingayat), Revenue Minister R Ashoka and Deputy CM, C N Ashwath Narayan (Vokkaligas), have also been doing the rounds.
Yediyurappa termed these two years as 'trial by fire', pointing out that he had to run the administration without a cabinet in the initial days, followed by devastating floods and the challenge of COVID-19 management, among other issues.
"I had decided to resign two months ago, as we complete two years of our government today. I thought it was apt to resign now and have submitted the resignation to the Governor and he has accepted it," he told reporters emerging from Raj Bhavan.
An official notification from the Governor's office said Gehlot has accepted Yediyurappa's resignation and dissolved the Council of Ministers headed by him, with immediate effect.
It also said that Yediyurappa shall continue to function as Chief Minister till alternate arrangements are made.
Thanking party leaders and the people for giving him an opportunity to serve the state, he said he had no 'pressure' from the central leadership in Delhi and quit on his own 'voluntarily' to make way for others to serve as CM.
"I will not make any proposal on who should be the next chief minister, it is left for the high command to decide. Whomever they choose, I will cooperate and work with...I don't want to take any names," he said to a question.
Considered the architect of the first ever BJP government to the south of Vindhyas, there seems to be no 'closure' for Yediyurappa, the party's 'comeback man' in Karnataka, as he could never complete a full term in office, despite becoming the chief minister for four times, surmounting odds.
From a humdrum existence as a government clerk and a hardware store owner to becoming the chief minister four times, Yediyurappa has navigated the choppy waters of politics with the consummate ease of a seasoned oarsman.
Age is being seen as a primary factor for his exit from the top job as the party wants to make way for a fresh leadership, ahead of the assembly polls in 2023.
Among other contributory factors include rumblings within BJP with complaints about his 'authoritative' style of functioning, his younger son and state BJP Vice President B Y Vijayendra's alleged interference in the administration, and allegations of corruption.
The Lingayat strong man's resignation has come, despite pontiffs of various communities rallying behind him and urging the BJP leadership to allow him to complete the term.
A section of leaders, mutts and pontiffs, especially from the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community and also the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha, while supporting Yediyurappa, have warned of 'bad consequences' for the BJP if he is replaced.
Yediyurappa, who has played an instrumental role in building BJP in Karnataka, had served as its state president, member of Parliament, MLA and deputy chief minister.
Earlier in the day, speaking at an event organised to mark his government's two years in office at Vidhana Soudha, the seat of state legislature and secretariat in Bengaluru, Yediyurappa had announced his decision to step down, as his voice choked and he turned emotional.
"Not out of grief, but with happiness," he said, as he thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president J P Nadda for giving him an opportunity to serve as Chief Minister for two years, despite completing 75 years of age.
There is an unwritten rule in the BJP of keeping out those above 75 years from elected offices.
Thanking the people of Shikaripura constituency for electing him to the assembly for seven terms, Yediyurappa, while speaking to media persons later, said no one in BJP was given the opportunity to hold any position after 75 years, but that he was allowed to become CM, despite crossing that age bar.
Asked about the future of those who had defected from Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) and are now ministers, as they helped BJP come to power, he said 'all are together with us. I am confident that the next chief minister will also cooperate with those who helped in forming this government. All will work together'.
Meanwhile, opposition Congress has demanded the ouster of the BJP government in Karnataka instead of the party finding a replacement for Chief Minister Yediyurappa.
"There is no benefit for the common man if one corrupt CM is removed to make another corrupt as CM. Instead the whole BJP party, which is responsible for the miseries of people, should be ousted," former chief minister Siddaramaiah, leader of the opposition in the assembly, said.
He said 'the power politics' in BJP is unfortunate when people are suffering due to natural calamities.