NEW DELHI: Chittapur Congress MLA Priyank Kharge said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has no credible face in the southern state and hence, they have again “started holding hands” with senior leader and former chief minister B S Yediyurappa. He also alleged that Yediyurappa was not planning to resign as chief minister, but was made to do so.
“B S Yediyurappa was not planning to retire, but he retired to make a BSY-free BJP. When they learned that there is no credible face in the BJP, they again started roaming around holding hands with Yediyurappa”, Kharge said. Talking to ANI, Priyank Kharge asked, “If he (Yediyurappa) really has potential why don’t they (BJP) give him a ticket?”
Aiming to win the upcoming Assembly elections in Karnataka, the BJP central leadership is counting on the experience and popularity of the former chief minister Yediyurappa, an influential Lingayat leader. Lingayats are the single largest community in Karnataka, accounting for nearly 17 per cent of the population, mostly in the north Karnataka region, and have traditionally voted for the BJP. Basavaraj Bommai, the present chief minister is also a Lingayat leader.
Earlier in January, a top BJP leader told ANI, “Lingayat votes hold the key for our party and without a doubt, BSY is one of our most popular Lingayat faces and we are banking on him to take the saffron surge forward”.
In the organisational changes implemented last year, in August 2022, the party appointed the former Karnataka CM to the parliamentary board, the top decision-making body of the party. Political analysts view his inclusion in the parliamentary board as reflecting the strategy of the party’s central leadership as banking on Yediyurappa to win the next Assembly elections.
“When the party decided to ask Yediyurappa to step down last year, he did so without any fuss and has accepted whatever responsibility that the organisation has entrusted to him. That’s the mark of a seasoned politician”, another leader said.
It may also be noted that it was a strategic decision by the BJP party to send Yediyurappa to Gujarat as a central observer to the recent victorious state of Gujarat for picking the leader of the legislative party. Senior BJP leaders Rajnath Singh, B S Yediyurappa and Arjun Munda were appointed as central observers for the meeting of the party’s new MLAs in Gujarat to pick the next chief minister.
“His utility and sharp political acumen can come in handy to the party in the whole of southern India and therefore, his entry into the BJP parliamentary board makes sense”, a BJP MP from the state said.
Speculations are rife that the veteran politician would like to see his younger son B Y Vijayendra contest the upcoming state polls from his own constituency Shikaripur. However, the final decision still lies with the top bosses in Delhi. The senior BJP leader has been an MLA from Shikaripur eight times.
“His mobility is another crucial factor for a state he knows too well. He has his ears to the ground and is constantly touring the state. His feedback is taken seriously by those who matter in the party, a senior office-bearer of the party told ANI.
The Vokkaliga community, which has close to 14 per cent of voters in the state, has been a traditional vote bank for the H D Devegowda-run Janata Dal-Secular party (JD-S) and is said to be a weak area for the BJP in southern Karnataka.
“We have seen the emergence of several leaders from the party like R Ashoka Dr C N Ashwath Narayan and CT Ravi amongst some others. But we are still to find the Yediyurappa of the Vokkaliga community for ourselves, ” a state leader said, arguing that the saffron party is all-inclusive and not restricted to just Lingayats.
The BJP was able to breach the JDS stronghold only in 2019 when it was successfully able to poach Congress-JDS MLAs and topple the H D Kumaraswamy-led government.
Yediyurappa was able to bring the BJP to power in 2008 for the first time in Karnataka. He resigned in 2011 as CM after being named in a case of corruption, only to be acquitted in 2016. After forming his own political outfit, he merged it with BJP after a brief period and contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Shivamogga and won.
He later contested to win the 2018 Karnataka Assembly polls when he took oath as Chief Minister for two days and then resigned because the party was unable to prove its majority. A year later, Yediyurappa was able to stage a coup and 18 MLAs jumped ship to BJP from the opposition Congress and JDS and he became CM for the fourth time in his career.
In another turn of events in July 2021, the veteran leader, on the instructions of the party’s top brass, stepped down as CM to make way for Basavaraj Bommai. Yediyurappa has also served as the BJP Karnataka president on three occasions. (ANI)