Log Out

Advertisement

Karnataka: Yediyurappa cornered by Amit Shah's pick

The man who broke the BJP’s “southern jinx” stands weakened and is being gradually sidelined within the party

By K.M. Rakesh in Bangalore

  • Published 12.10.19, 6:09 AM
  • Updated 12.10.19, 6:09 AM
A “powerful group” within the BJP — led by national organising secretary B.L. Santosh wants Yediyurappa out and has the blessings of the RSS.
A “powerful group” within the BJP — led by national organising secretary B.L. Santosh wants Yediyurappa out and has the blessings of the RSS. (AP)

A tweet that chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa quickly removed from his Twitter page on Thursday highlighted an open secret in Karnataka politics: that the man who broke the BJP’s “southern jinx” stands weakened and is being gradually sidelined within the party.

Sources say a “powerful group” within the BJP — led by national organising secretary B.L. Santosh, an RSS favourite who is the eyes and ears of party chief Amit Shah — has taken control of the party in the state. This group wants Yediyurappa out and has the blessings of the RSS.

One reason being cited is the party’s determination to groom a second line of leaders in Karnataka, with Santosh himself a future contender for chief minister.

Without a second rung, the BJP had been forced to depend on the 76-year-old “Lingayat strongman” — who had given the party its first government in the south in 2008 — when the time came to form a government again in end-July this year. This despite his having crossed the 75-year age limit the party has set for the bearers of high office.

Another likely reason is that the Sangh-BJP has not forgiven Yediyurappa his scathing attacks on the party during his break-up with it between 2011 and 2014.

Santosh showed his hand early during Yediyurappa’s latest tenure. First, he saddled the veteran with three deputy chief ministers against his wishes.

In end-August, Santosh abruptly replaced Yediyurappa as the state unit president with Nalin Kumar Kateel, a lesser-known party hawk from coastal Karnataka.

Santosh’s hand was evident also in the choice of Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri as the Speaker. Neither Kateel nor Kageri ever got along with Yediyurappa.

After Kageri on Wednesday banned private TV channels and news photographers from covering Assembly proceedings, Yediyurappa had tweeted his displeasure.

“My government is always committed to the freedom of media. I will make a sincere effort and request Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri to reconsider his decision…” he tweeted on Thursday.

But within minutes, the tweet disappeared from his Twitter page, raising suspicion that the media gag had been a central leadership diktat communicated directly to the Speaker.

In September, Yediyurappa’s loyalists had publicly warned the party bosses not to sideline their leader, who was being repeatedly denied a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to seek flood assistance.

The latest sticking point is the selection of nominees for the December 5 by-elections to up to 17 Assembly seats in the state. While Yediyurappa wants the tickets distributed among the 17 Congress-Janata Dal Secular rebels who had helped the BJP return to power, Santosh wants to field party loyalists.

“We have seen lots of changes in the party, with new leaders taking over from the seniors. But Yediyurappa has so far managed to retain his position because of his clout with the Lingayat community,” a BJP insider said.

“I don’t think he will get another chance — or even a second year in office. We are trying to make the BJP a favourite among all the communities, not just Lingayats.”

State Congress spokesperson V.S. Ugrappa told The Telegraph: “To the BJP, Yediyurappa’s utility is over with the party coming back to power. They know that Yediyurappa cannot strike back: his age and health will not allow another battle with the BJP.”

Yediyurappa had quit the BJP and floated the Karnataka Janata Paksha in 2011 when the party sidelined him following his arrest in illegal land-deal cases.

“As KJP president, Yediyurappa had vowed to finish the BJP off. The RSS and the BJP will not forgive someone who has spoken against them,” Ugrappa said. 

Advertisement