Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa will be completing two years in office, but whether he will continue in office has been a debate in political circles as a large section of BJP legislators, upset with his style of functioning, want him replaced as a course correction before Karnataka goes to assembly polls in 2023. And this time those seeking to unseat him are confident that the BJP central leadership will hear them out and consider their demand.
The prime reason, according to BJP insiders, is anti-incumbency, as majority of party MLAs are of the view that Yediyurappa has lost the prowess of a war horse to lead the Assembly elections due in 2023. ``The CM has lost the support of his own community, the Lingayats following charges of corruption, incompetence by his cabinet ministers, CDs blackmail tactics and allegations against his son, state BJP vice-president B Y Vijayendra of interfering in the administration,â a party functionary told TNM. âYediyurappa had been the face of the Lingayats all these years and with their backing the party increased its tally in the legislative assembly from a single to three digits, but he has lost the steam now by his self-destruct mode,'' he added.
According to a BJP leader the central leadership was supposed to look into a change of guard early this year, but the second wave of the pandemic delayed the process. ``Presently, the BJP high command's priorities are a reshuffle of the Union Cabinet and the Uttar Pradesh ministry. Once both exercises are over, the leaders will look at Karnataka as there has to be an overhaul of the party, if it wants to return to power in 2023,'' the leader stated.
Talks have already begun among the BJP MLAs to convince the high command on why a change of leadership is required. BJP MLAs Uday B Garudachar, K Poornima, Arvind Bellad, Basannagouda Patil Yatnal, Satish Reddy, G H Thippa Reddy and Masala Jayaram among others are in the forefront for seeking a change. Some of them have already met BJP leaders in New Delhi and are waiting to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and party chief J P Nadda.
Meanwhile, Bellad, K Sunil Kumar and Pradeep Shettar (kin of minister Jagdish Shettar) are mobilising a signature campaign of MLAs pressing for early legislature party meeting with three central observers present in it.
Why the demand for a change?
The blind affection by Yediyurappa for his family, which has made him defy the BJP high command's directive to keep his kin away from power is likely to be the cause of his probable exit. With age having caught up, the 78 year-old chief minister sees Vijayendra as his heir apparent and has reportedly given the latter a free run of the administration. In March, a senior minister K S Eshwarappa petitioned governor Vajubhai R Vala accusing Yediyurappa of favouring his kin and recently another minister C P Yogeeshwar made a veiled attack on him saying: `` He (the minister) will not approve of his son interfering in the ministry.''
Besides, the first six months of Yediyurappa's tenure in 2019 went in handling the floods and by-elections caused by turncoat legislators. From early 2020, the government has been facing flak for its mismanagement on providing succour to those affected by natural calamities, uproar by various communities on the reservation issue, CD blackmail politics and the several U-turns it has been taking in handling the pandemic.
Party sources said the fear of a backlash from the Lingayat community if Yediyurappa were to be replaced has diminished as the huge turnout by the Panchamasali Lingayats at the Bengaluru rally demanding hike in reservation quota was a pointer of his hold over them. In 2013 assembly elections, Yediyurappa's new outfit the Karnataka Janata Paksha had dented the BJP's prospects and the Congress had gained in 23 constituencies due to the division of votes.
Who can replace Yediyurappa?
Not able to find an acceptable leader to replace Yediyurappa had resulted in the BJP high command giving him the sole exception to the 75 years age ceiling norm. But the party in the last one decade has taken the risk of picking surprise candidates for the Chief Minister's mantle.
It started with Goa's late former chief minister Manohar Parikkar, Maharashtra's former CM Devendra Fadanavis and Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh. With Modi and Shah at the helm, the trend of summoning CMs and obtaining their resignations has also started and Uttarakhand is the latest example. Those who are seeking Yediyurappa's exit have no alternate leader as his likely replacement. ``It will be the high command's call and all we want is an early decision,'' a party legislator said.
Names of some MLAs and also of a Union Minister are doing the rounds. It's learnt that Yediyurappa, who is aware of the dissidence against him, is not likely to suggest names as he wants Vijayendra to come up in politics. Names of ministers Basavaraj Bommai, Murugesh Nirani and Jagadish Shettar are being bandied about once there is a vacancy.
Regarding caste dynamics among the Lingayats, Bommai credits himself for bringing back Yediyurappa into the party in 2014, while Nirani's rapport with Shah is said to be good. The latter visited Nirani's constituency for a private function in January followed up with three meetings in New Delhi where Shah is supposed to have told him: âAap ka future achcha hai.'(Your future is good).â If the party is looking for a Fadnavis or Parikkar in Karnataka, Bellad can be the dark horse, sources said.
With the BJP having made inroads into the other communities, contenders among the Vokkaligas include ministers R Ashoka, C N Ashwath Narayan and national General Secretary C T Ravi.
A political analyst summing up Yediyurappa's situation said: ``The conundrum of Yediyurappa has been that after getting power with a lot of struggle, he has lost it by his own doing. He was CM for a week in 2007, for three and half years in 2008 and for three days in 2018.''