Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa
Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa
Karnataka

First Signs Of Trouble For Yediyurappa?

Turncoats demand their pound of flesh, BJP leadership too seems to want the chief minister to return to pavilion voluntarily

Imran Qureshi

Imran Qureshi

These are still early days but it appears that the seeds have been sown for the roots of the tree to almost shake the foundation of the house that Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa has built under the banner of the BJP.

Disgruntlement within the party over loyalists being denied ministerial posts is very common in any political establishment, be it the BJP or the Congress. But what is odd is that Yediyurappa has been threatened publicly, not once but twice, and the political grapevine says that he is under some kind of threat, privately, too.

Even as late as July when he became the chief minister after he engineered the fall of the Janata Dal Secular-Congress coalition, nobody could imagine anyone threatening Yediyurappa with a statement like “if he is not made a minister, I shall quit the ministry and the membership of the assembly.”

The latest threat has come from a man who cobbled up disgruntled MLAs from both the Congress and the JDS to become a minister and got what he wanted, the portfolio that was held by his old rival in the Congress, DK Shiva Kumar. Ramesh Jarkiholi, the minister for water resources, is the man in question.

Ramesh Jarkiholi wants his supporter Mahesh Kumathalli, the lone turncoat not sworn in with other turncoats, to also be accommodated in the ministry. It will mean the ministry will have five ministers from just one district of Belgavi at a time when 10 districts do not have even a single representative in the ministry.

Almost a month earlier, the undisputed leader of the Lingayat community, Yediyurappa had been issued a warning by a seer, Sree Vachananda Swamiji of the Panchamshali Lingayat sect. The young Swamiji had bluntly told the chief minister at a largely attended public event : “All the five Lingayat Mutt seers will move away from you, if you don’t take care of (former minister Murugesh) Nirani.”

Yediyurappa, literally, jumped out of his chair to tell the Swamiji that he could not threaten him though he was free to make suggestions privately. “I will quit and go. I am not dying to be in the CM’s chair,” Yediyurappa had told the Swamiji.

These threats could also well be dismissed as things that happen in politics. But when viewed from the prism of stability of the BJP government keeping in view the age factor of the chief minister, the matter assumes a political meaning that is far more critical to the BJP and Karnataka.

A few days after Yediyurappa inducted 10 ministers, Nirani and a senior legislator Umesh Katti, rushed to Delhi to complain to Amit Shah, union home minister and former party president.

Shah did not have the time to meet them. So Nirani and Katti, both loyalists of the party as well as Yediyurappa, had a meeting with the industries minister and a former chief minister Jagdish Shettar, in the presence of a few others.

This created a buzz that neither the party nor the chief minister’s office have denied. The importance of this meeting also accentuated the importance of a letter, written by an unknown person that was being circulated in party circles.

This letter begins by praising Yediyurappa, literally, to the skies and, mid-way, changes the narrative as to how he should be treated as a ‘Margadarshak’ since he will be celebrating his 77th birthday on February 27. The meeting with Shettar has also led to speculation that it was an effort to discuss issues that could help the party “find a replacement to Yediyurappa.”

Shettar went on record to formally deny reports based on speculation and that it had only to do with the MLAs discussing projects for their districts. Strangely, Shettar had an urgent breakfast meeting with Yediyurappa the next morning, ostensibly, to deny any political significance to the meeting with MLAs. It was also odd that Shettar was visited by none other than BL Santosh, the national organising secretary of the BJP after a couple of days.

These developments converted what was a whisper in the BJP circles to a freely talked about point among party workers and leaders. BY Vijendra, son of Yediyurappa has in recent weeks been very active in transferring officials. “There are also instances of a lot of files moving through him. This is what we are being told,” said one party leader who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Senior party leaders also, strictly in confidence, indicate a sudden rise in interference in clearing of files of other departments as well from the younger son who created a name for himself during the by-elections to the assembly when the turncoats were fielded as official BJP candidates.

Vijendra took up a challenge not many would have taken up. That is to work in a constituency, overwhelmingly dominated by the other upper caste of Vokkaligas in the heartland of the Janata Dal (S). He shifted his base from Shivamogga district to KR Pete in Mandya district to design the strategy and implement it for the re-election of Narayan Gowda, who left the JDS to join the BJP.

This is the constituency which has a village called Bookanakere which stands for the first initial in the name of Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yediyurappa aka BS Yediyurappa. Yediyurappa had been asked by the RSS to shift his base to Shivamogga to spread its message, largely because there were more Lingayats in Shikaripura assembly constituency of Shivamogga.

“It is not clear if Yediyurappa himself encourages Vijendra to look into files or whether ministers are asked by the father to discuss it with his son. But it is known to everyone that Vijendra has emerged very powerful in this dispensation. Much more than BY Raghavendra (MP from Shivamogga) and other siblings,” a senior leader told The Lede on condition of anonymity.

Another leader said that “many of our colleagues are unhappy about it. But, we cannot do much at this point of time to run a campaign against Yediyurappa because he still is the undisputed leader of the Lingayat community. The central leadership is very clear about it, too, that there is no question of replacing Yediyurappa.”

Will that help him make Vijendra the general secretary of the Karnataka unit of the party? “That is the effort being made but we don’t know whether it will happen so easily.”

So is the plan an effort to weaken Yediyurappa as much as possible so that he is eased out of office? At least, two important leaders, did not utter a word but simply smiled.

In short, the seeds have grown shoots and roots. How they will grow and how the roots will touch the foundation of the house remains to be seen. And what the house owner will do also awaits an answer.

The Lede
www.thelede.in