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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 33, New Delhi, July 31, 2021

Yediyurappa resigns as CM of Karnataka: End of a long innings in State Politics | P S Jayaramu

Friday 30 July 2021

by P. S. Jayaramu *

July 28, 2021

Though there were rumours in Karnataka for the last two months as to when and how B.S. Yediyurappa’s tenure as Chief Minister would end, he chose the right time under the circumstances by announcing his resignation at a function organised on 2th July to mark the completion of two years of his Government. With his resignation, his long active innings in the politics of the State has come to an end. He has of course said that he would remain committed to working for the Party and bringing it back to power again in 2023, he has also announced that he would not accept any gubernatorial position. He said that the late Vajpayee has asked him to serve as a minister in his ministry, but politely declined itIn that sense, it is not yet time to write his political obituary.

The happenings leading to Yediyurappa’s resignation merit analysis. For about two months, there were speculations that the high command would ask him to step down. As if to add weight to such rumours, BSY had publicly stated that as a disciplined soldier of the Party, he would resign from the post the day the high command would ask him to do. The central leadership had several rounds of discussions about when and how to bring about the change by assiduously drawing inputs from it’s own sources in Bengaluru about the pros and cons of effecting the change. What added to the high command’s problems was the way the heads of several lingayat mutts rallied behind BSY, not to forget the support extended by two senior lingayat leaders of the Congress Party, as a symbol of community loyalty. At the same time, the heat was on BSY to step down. On his part, Yediyurappa perhaps waited for a package decision ( about the possible position to his son and his loyalists in the reconstituted ministry) to be announced by the high command. When the high command did not oblige him, Yediyurappa decided to announce his resignation at the function. The first round of the battle seems to have been won by the high command. The same was evident in the profuse expressions of gratitude by BSY to the trio consisting of Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and J.P. Nadda for allowing him to assume office in 2019 when he was already 76 years old. The 75 years deadline for not holding office was violated recently when high command gave ticket to the 88 years old metro man Sreedharan as it’s chief ministerial face to contest the Kerala Assembly elections. The gambit did not work though.

The exit of BSY from office is a time to reflect on the phenomenon of Yediyurappa in Karnataka politics. He had very humble beginnings working as a clerk in a hardware shop and at a rice mill for sometime before joining the RSS and eventually Jana Sangh. BSY got elected from Shikaripura constituency in 1983 as an MLA, from which time he never looked back.Yediyurappa became Chief Minister four times- for seven days in November 2007, three years and two months in May 2008, three days in May 2018 and finally for two years since July 2019 till he stepped down.

There are few things to be factored in while analysing Yediyurappa’s long political innings. He is a 24X7 politician, with his feet firmly on the ground. Even as leader of the opposition in the Assembly, he not only participated effectively in debates by putting the government on the mat, but even resorted to dharnas, night long dharnas sometimes, a strategy copied by Congress leaders while in the opposition.

Additionally, Yediyurappa has demonstrated his commitment to the farmers, like the JD(S) supremo Deve Gowda, during his long political career. He had the distinction of having presented a farmers’ budget in 2008 as chief minister, something which was emulated by his counterparts later in many parts of the country.

Furthermore, Yeduyurappa is a mass leader, having toured the State countless number of times during his political career. Though he is a leader from the southern region, he has made his mark in the northern and central regions of the State too.

The negative side of Yediyurappa’s persona also needs to be highlighted. He went to jail when he was indicted by the Lokayukta for his role in the mining scam in 2011 for which he was later acquitted by the CBI Court in 2016. His name is involved in illegal allotment of land in recent times too. Along side the corruption issue, Yediyurappa is detested for nepotism as seen from his younger son Vijayendra’s interference in administration, something which has been publicly criticised by even senior members of the party like Basanagouda Patil Yatnal. BSY’s daughters and sons-in-laws too are reported to be meddling in the allotment of contracts etc.

Reference also needs to be made to the infamous role played by Yediyurappa in ‘operation kamala’. This is an issue which has been rightly condemned as the practice of unholy means to achieve the desired end of capturing power. BSY engineered the resignation of 17 MLA’s from the Congress Party and the JD(S) to bring down their coalition government in 2019, formed the government and later got them elected to the Assembly. While Yediyurappa deserves to be denounced in this regard, the fact remains that he was supported by the top leadership of the BJP in executing ‘operation kamala’ to recapture power in the State.

It is also a fact that Yediyurappa demonstrated his political utility to the BJP high command throughout. He played a pioneering role in bringing the party to power in 2008 for the first time in the State and southern India. He got 19 MPs elected to the Lok sabha in 2014 and 25 in 2019, not to speak of the victories he brought to the Party in Assembly by-elections periodically, winning in constituencies which were the bastions of the Congress party. It is the political-cum-electoral benefits that Yediyurappa brought to the party that made the high command allow him to retain power so far. Perhaps, the Party now feels time has come to train a new leader to recapture power in the State in 2023. It remains to be seen how far it will succeed in its mission. Also worthy of interest to watch is whether the party will bring about a paradigm shift by moving away from the caste based identity politics and more significantly return to it’s ideologically driven Hindutva brand of politics or allow realpolitik driven status-quo politics with some tinkering of sorts.

Basavaraj Bommai, who joined the BJP from the Janata Dal (U) in 2008 and became a close confidant of Yediyurappa and served as home minister in the erstwhile government has been sworn in as the new chief minister of the State. His selection to the top post is a reflection of political realism scoring over hard line Hindutva. The voice of Lingayat mutt heads too seem to have been heeded. With his erstwhile socialist leanings, Bommai has made himself acceptable to not only the sober elements in the party but enjoys good rapport with opposition leaders too. It is a sort of victory for Yediyurappa in the first round, but, the high command is likely to bring in to the council of ministers some of Yediyurappa’s detractors and thereby put limits to his indirect hold over the the Bommai government.

* (The writer is former Professor of Political Science, Bangalore University and former Senior Fellow, ICSSR, New Delhi)

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