Yediyurappa: The 75-plus comeback kid tasked with poll battle

Former Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa (BSY),  who was till recently sulking until — in a surprise move — the Bharatiya Janata Party appointed him to the party’s powerful parliamentary board last week, has hit the road to rally the party ahead of assembly polls in March next year. The new posting reaffirmed his importance in the party and his sway among the state’s numerically largest and politically influential community, the Lingayats.

Last year in June Yediyurappa was forced to give up the CM chair as the party high command cited his age — 75-plus. His second son, BY Vijayendra, was denied both a ticket for the by-polls and a nomination to the legislative council. While Basavaraj Bommai — seen as BSY’s choice — became CM, he has failed to strengthen his hold on either the administration or the party apparatus, forcing the BJP high command to woo Yediyurappa again.

Political analysts say the party’s central leadership acknowledges him as crucial to winning the upcoming elections barely six months away. BSY has been instrumental in giving the saffron party a foothold in Karnataka, the only south Indian state where it has held office.

Sandeep Shastry, Pro-vice chancellor at Jain University, said, “Even though Yediyurappa is not the chief minister anymore, he continues to be one of the tallest leaders. He belongs to, and has an influence on the dominant caste in the state. Hence, giving him a position of prominence allows the party to take advantage of the clout he has.” 

BSY belongs to the Lingayat community, which constitutes 17 per cent of the state’s population and believed to influence the poll outcome for at least 100 of the 224 assembly seats. 

“The (party’s) move to patch up the relationship with BSY is because Siddaramaiah — Opposition leader of Karnataka — seems to be gaining ground. He is also expected to bring a neutralising effect, as Bommai has, of late, taken an extreme pro-right stance, which has caused some unrest in the state,” political analyst Rajendra Chenni said. 

Chenni added that Yediyurappa’s rebellion earlier on, which cost the BJP the 2013 assembly election, has also compelled the party to appease him. Yediyurappa had established his own party, the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP), which took 9-10 per cent of the vote away from the BJP and reduced its take to a mere 44 seats.

Following his appointment to the board, BSY has rekindled enthusiasm among the party cadre and hit the ground running by organising the Savarkar Rath Yatra in Mysuru to “counter the negative propaganda”. In an interview, he said, “101 per cent we will be back in power in next elections. We will try to set up BJP (rule) in the rest of southern India. Will travel all over India, as expected by PM Modi.”

Can BSY’s yatras and his re-emergence in state politics outweigh the anti-incumbency mood hanging heavy over the state government? The ballot boxes will have the answer soon.

Published on

August 25, 2022

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