On June 6, an emotional Yediyurappa lashed out at his detractors and told the media that if the BJP high command wants him to resign, he will do so immediately. Though the media has been asking him questions on the unceasing dissent against him, with this outburst, many were taken aback. Sources in BJP tell TNM that this was not a spontaneous outburst by the Karnataka CM but a calculated message he was sending to his own party.
A routine has been established in the BJP of late--outspoken rebels publicly pass remarks against Yediyurappa and his family, after media reporting the comments, every few months a central leader of the party will give a lukewarm assurance that there are no plans to replace Yediyurappa. In spite of the central leadership's assurance, scathing remarks will continue unabated. This time however, BS Yediyurappa's reaction was stronger than in the past. A day before speaking to the media, Yediyurappa spoke to his confidantes in the party and reportedly expressed his anguish. He spoke about how he feels let down by the party senior leaders for not sending out a message to the rebels, a source told TNM.
In the late night meeting, Yediyurappa apparently told his supporters that he has been doing all he can to not have complaints against him, and has been working hard despite his age and health. But far from being appreciated, he is being attacked from all quarters, the BJP veteran reportedly said.
While Yediyurappa is no stranger to dissent, what precipitated this was a comment by Basanagouda Yatnal who recently said that Yediyurappaâ€™s son Vijayendra was in Delhi not to meet the senior BJP leaders but had gone with regard to an ED case for which he was called in for questioning. He added that senior leaders like JP Nadda would not discuss either the COVID-19 crisis or political issues with someone as junior as Vijayendra.
Vijayendraâ€™s visit had come just days after Karnataka MLAs CP Yogeeshwara and legislator Arvind Bellad camped in Delhi making yet another attempt to convince the central leadership to replace Yediyurappa. While their visit seemed futile, with none of the senior leaders giving them an audience, they chose to make their displeasure known through the media. With more MLAs crossing over to the other side, Yediyurappa, defiant, sent his son to send a message to the rebels about who still has clout in the party.
While the BJP which has been unable to find a replacement for Yediyurappa -and has chosen to continue him as the CM despite several reservations- the partyâ€™s senior leadership has been allowing and even orchestrating the erosion of his influence, both within the party and as a mass leader. Delayed or lukewarm reactions to open rebellion against Yediyurappa has been a clear signal even in the face of the most open infighting with the state unit of the BJP.
While the Yediyurappa of 2021 is not as feisty as he was in 2012 where he quit the party and started his own party--KJP--majorly denting BJPâ€™s prospects in the 2013 elections, he still poses a threat. His stature as the tallest Lingayat leader remains and a replacement from the community does not seem likely. But that said, the BJP of 2021 does not want another tall leader who personally holds the loyalty of a community and with that the power to bargain with the senior leadership. To that effect, the weakening of Yediyurappa is a far more useful technique for the BJP.
Meanwhile, BL Santhoshâ€™s aspiration to be the Chief Minister has accentuated his rivalry with Yediyurappa. While organisationally, Santhosh has more clout, he lacks experience as an elected representative. Being a Brahmin, he also does not have the support of a caste-base like Yediyurappa does. But many internally too believe that much like Devendra Fadnavis and Adityanath were made CMs, he might be brought in by the senior leadership.
But as of now, the BJP national leaders who are still shaken by the West Bengal debacle and are now regrouping to focus on firefighting in UP, are in no mood to handle delicate issues from Karnataka. With elections still over an year away, they are allowing the state leaders to quibble and will deal with the last man standing.