Poor BS Yediyurappa has had to go through premature ‘evictions’ so many times beginning with his unceremonious ouster in 2011 when he had famously remarked that the BJP did not stand with its people in hours of distress the way the INC leadership did. It was a comment made at the peak of what could be called a season of scandals of the INC-led UPA government whereas the then chief minister of Karnataka was accused of nepotism, from which he had tried to defend himself by saying he was merely following his predecessors at the CMO. What’s politically more significant after 10 years is the realisation that he is a deadly defector, eroding the BJP of its Lingayat support base if angered. Having denied his parent party a triumph in his absence, it does not matter that the young Turks in the organisation are upset about the accommodation of 17 turncoats from the INC and JD(S) who had come together, defying the mandate, after the last Karnataka assembly election. The ambitious politicians of the BJP itself, who had tried to fill the void in the period 2011-16, could not but have him as their boss any longer. To its credit, the BJP leadership managed the media well to ensure that the act of Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, H Vishwanath and CP Yogeshwar to wash dirty linen in public before, during or after Yediyurappa’s resignation did not make national news. The locals of Karnataka alone were keeping a track of the backstage manoeuvres as Chief Minister-elect Basavaraj Bommai reached the Raj Bhavan. Gali Janardhan Reddy had been taken care of by the Supreme Court, without quite needing the BJP leadership’s overt intervention.
It is not intriguing is why the BJP could not locate another tall Lingayat leader in all these years since 2004 when the party stormed into southern India, with Karnataka as its first base camp. Yediyurappa is much more than just his caste. As the articles of veteran journalist Manohar Yadavatti on Sirf News say, the outgoing chief minister has been a terrific social engineer who has endeared to many an opposition leader — Shyamanur Shivashankarappa, MB Patil, KR Rameshkumar and Satish Jarkiholi of the INC to name just four — as well. He humours the minuscule Christian community in Karnataka too. His suave political mind is rare to find in the new generation of leaders in the ruling party of Karnataka. For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president JP Nadda, it is not as easy as picking a Devendra Fadnavis in Maharashtra, an ML Khattar in Haryana, a Raghubar Das in Jharkhand or a Pushkar Singh Dhami in Uttarakhand.
With Bommai’s statecraft yet to be tested, the party leadership in New Delhi can afford neither a weakling nor a formidable state satrap. As there are 20 months to go before the next state assembly election and 10 more months before the 2024 Lok Sabha election, Karnataka is as important in the south as Uttar Pradesh is in the north for the BJP. How a seasoned Bommai manages imminent dissension by other contenders of the chair he now occupies is the space to watch out for.