Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, who is battling to contain COVID-19 cases which breached the 50,000 mark in the state recently, will usher his one-year in office on July 26 in a quiet but unique way.
The event is scheduled for July 27 or during that week, as July 26 falls on a Sunday, which is a total lockdown day in the state. With a virtual programme which is still in the planning stage, the CM has decided to refresh people's minds on his government's programmes, who otherwise have been inundated with reports on the coronavirus pandemic.
While it has been a practice of former Chief Ministers to mark their tenures in office by bringing out brochures, the one to be released by Yediyurappa is being authored by 20 experts from different fields.
Yediyurappa's media advisor PM Mahadev Prakash, who is the person behind this idea said, âIt's common for CMs to release brochures which are brought out by the Karnataka department of Information and Public Relations, where the content will only be to pat ourselves.â
âFor the first time, experts and seers have been asked to contribute to the brochure with objective write-ups where some of the pitfalls of the government will also figure,â he added.
The experts include Sirigere mutt pontiff Shivamurthy Shivacharya Swam, who will give his views on the success of online marketing facility for farmers, a programme started in 2016, which has been appreciated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Bhalki mutt seer Basavaraj Pattadevaru will be writing on the development of the Kalyan Karnataka (Hyderabad-Karnataka) region. AN Yellappa Reddy, an environmentalist, will write on the projects taken up for the environment, while Gururaj Karajagi, an education management professional and Niranjan Aradhya, an education expert, will write on the educational ventures taken up.
Dr CN Manjunath of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research will write about the state governmentâs handling of COVID-19. Two former bureaucrats -- K Jairaj and Kotlinganagoud, who was a Secretary to three Karnataka Governors; Govind Narain, Ashok Nath Banerjee and P Venkatasubbaiah, are among the others who will contribute.
According to party sources, under normal circumstances, Yediyurappa, whose ambition of becoming the CM was fulfilled by dislodging the 14-month old JD(S)-Congress government, would have preferred to celebrate his one-year tenure with a bang, considering that his 78th birthday on February 27 was an event attended by political personalities of all parties.
âHis one year tenure had three phases --- beginning with floods in the state, when he toured the affected districts alone as the cabinet had not been formed. Later it was the bye-elections fever and simmering discontent among BJP legislators and in the last five months, he was bogged down by the fight against coronavirus,'' sources said.
âMellowed downâ BSY as CM for the fourth time
Senior BJP MLC Lehar Singh, who has seen Yediyurappa from close quarters said that the latter had mellowed down over the years.
âIt's a calm and cool Yediyurappa now, who used to lose his temper earlier. The reasons were many then, including a threat from some senior MPs who were close to the central leadership and nurtured ambitions of becoming the CM. Now, there is a central leadership which is not blind to development taking place in the state,'' he added.
However, BJP sources admit that infighting by some of the ministers, their one upmanship in handling the pandemic and the u-turns taken by the government in managing the pandemic has put the Yediyurappa's administration in poor light.
âThe rivalry between Deputy CM CN Ashwathnarayan, ministers K Sudhakar, B Sriramulu, R Ashoka, S Suresh Kumar and V Somanna in handling COVID-19 and among Ashwathnarayan, Ashoka and Sudhakar to establish their Vokkaliga supremacy has embarrassed the government,'' a source said.
Besides, the conspiracies to replace Yediyurappa have not stopped churning. The absence of a clear successor to Yediyurappa and the uneasy equations between state BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel; who has the support of party's national organisation secretary BL Santhosh, has the CM walking on a tightrope.
Once his staunch follower, senior MLA Basannagouda Patil Yetnal, who in October 2019 had said there was a conspiracy to unseat Yediyurappa, in May this year, hit out at him alleging that his constituency works were not being done and the former was only a CM while his leaders were Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and JP Nadda.
âIf this pandemic was not there, the process of revolt would have accelerated. A senior Lingayat minister who played a crucial role in Yediyurappa rejoining the BJP in 2014 is trying to position himself for the CM's slot,'' sources said.
With odds against him, is BSY happy of having achieved his ambition? "No Chief Minister can be happy when he is under the party high command's scanner", a political observer said.
He recalled that former CM D Devaraj Urs held the post for seven and half years due to his political acumen and good equations with former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. But when he tried to flap his wings during his second term, he was sacked.
âThe only CMs who chose not to become subservient to their high commands and managed to complete their tenures were BD Jatti, SM Krishna and Siddaramaiah,'' he stated.
With one crisis after another dogging Yediyurappa, sources close to him said that the problems are going to resurface when he goes in for a cabinet reshuffle or expansion, which has been pending for long.
âHe has managed to stall off dissent until now with his shrewdness through lessons learnt as CM for a week in 2007, for three and half years in 2008 and for 24 hours in 2018. But efforts are on to steal the CM's post rather than earn it,'' sources maintained.
Naheed Ataulla is a journalist who has covered Karnataka politics for over two decades, and is a former Political Editor of The Times of India.