Lingayats who form about 17% of the state's population are considered the party’s prime vote bank.

Murgesh NiraniMurugesh Nirani/Facebook
news Politics Monday, July 26, 2021 - 17:05

With Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa’s resignation accepted by Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot, political circles are abuzz on who the next CM will be. Sources in the BJP say the high command is deciding on a shortlist of candidates, a majority of them unsurprisingly are Lingayats, the community Yediyurappa belongs to and the party’s prime vote bank. Most of the candidates also belong to north Karnataka.

The BJP has many options - have a Lingayat CM, or have a non-Lingayat CM and a Lingayat Deputy CM or have multiple Deputy CMs. This list only looks at the four probable Lingayat names who could be made Chief Minister.

Murugesh Nirani, currently the Mines Minister in the state, is tipped to become Yediyurappa’s successor, according to multiple sources. Nirani belongs to the Panchamasali Lingayat community and this is among the major factors that makes him the frontrunner for the post. Further speculation of his candidature came after flew to Delhi on the eve of Yediyurappa’s resignation on July 25. Sources in the BJP told TNM that due to multiple reasons, the party feels that the likelihood of it getting reelected in 2023 is less. In order to instill a new cadre system independent of a tall ladder like Yediyurappa, the party wants a personality whom the high command can groom. Nirani is also known to be an RSS loyalist from his early days and is also an established sugar baron with humble beginnings. His associates claim that Nirani enjoys a good rapport with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who was BJP National President until recently.

According to his associates, Nirani’s sugar business employs 75,000 people directly. In the previous BJP government, he held the position of Minister of Industries. A section of Panchamasalis feel that although they make up 65% of the influential Lingayat community, they have been sidelined both in the party and the government. This sentiment had crescendoed in the 2A reservation demand which had caused major embarrassment to the Yediyurappa government. Many in political circles also say that the high command used this to further weaken Yediyurappa’s position.

Watch this video on BS Yediyurappa's resignation

Other than Nirani, the three other Lingayat contenders for the CM post are Industry Minister Jagadish Shettar, present Home Minister Basavraj Bommai and MLA Arvind Bellad.

Shettar incidentally has served as the CM for a year following the infamous resignation of BS Yediyurappa in 2012 owing to the mining scam allegations. Like Yediyurappa, his career in politics predates the BJP. He was a second-generation member of the Jan Sangh. He has also been an active participant of the RSS and the ABVP. He has also held the position of the state president for the BJP in 2005 and served as the Speaker too in his long political career.

Basavraj Bommai unlike the other two top contenders can be considered as a man close to BS Yediyurappa. He is also the son of former Chief Minister and Union Minister SR Bommai and has served as Minister of Water Resources and Minister of Cooperation previously. He, like his father, started his career in the Janata Dal (United) but joined the BJP in 2008. He belongs to the Sadar subsect, arguably the second most influential sub-sect within the Lingayat community after the Banajiga.

Compared to the other three leaders who are political veterans, Arvind Bellad is a two-time MLA. Unlike the other three, he has openly spoken against Yediyurappa recently. He had recently made news after he sought an inquiry into an alleged phone-tapping incident. He is also a second generation politician with his father Chandrakant Bellad, a RSS-strongman being a five time MLA.

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