What’s Troubling Yediyurappa?
The unpredictable approach of the Election Commission (EC) in notifying fresh dates for the by-elections to the 15 seats of the Karnataka legislative assembly may raise many eyebrows.
More so, after informing the Supreme Court that it will await its judgement in the disqualification case.
Politically, however, the debate is whether the pinpricks from the central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to chief minister BS Yediyurappa will increase in the run-up to the by-elections and thereafter.
The by-elections were precipitated by the resignation of Congress and Janata Dal Secular (JDS) MLAs as part of Operation Kamala, resulting in the fall of the JDS-Congress coalition government and the return of the BJP to power in July.
Since then, Yediyurappa has had to face the ignominy of waiting for more than three weeks to expand his ministry and not even being able to decide the portfolios of the ministers. He has also had to accept not one but three deputy chief ministers.
“The entire effort has been to push him to a corner and make him and his government ineffective,” said one of his supporters on condition of anonymity.
The change in the situation, compared to 2008 when he single handedly brought the BJP to power for the first time in South India, has been rather drastic.
It is true that Yediyurappa could not be pushed aside when it came to the question of chief ministership even though he had become eligible to be a member of the Margadarshak Mandal as he had crossed the 75 years age mark.
The BJP’s central leadership had no choice but to accept him for fear that the major caste group of Lingayats did not feel offended like they did when Veerendra Patil was removed from the chief ministership by Congress president Rajiv Gandhi in 1990.
The Congress has never been able to get back the kind of support it enjoyed from the Lingayat community to which Yediyurappa belongs.
The central leadership of the BJP would have preferred to hold mid-term elections to the assembly in the event of the JDS-Congress coalition government collapsing.
But it fell in line with the viewpoint of Yediyurappa to form the party government.
Yediyurappa, perhaps, did not realise then that the central leadership would treat him in a step-fatherly fashion in the coming months.
Soon after he took charge, he had to heli-hop all over the state as several districts were flooded due to the unprecedented rains that lashed, first the neighbouring state of Maharashtra, and then the Malnad or hilly regions of the state.
With the central leadership yet to decide on the number of ministers to be sworn in, it was an entirely single-man show. Once the ministry was formed, the government had to increase the quantum of flood relief sought from the Centre.
BJP president and union home minister Amit Shah and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman did tour the state. So did an official committee from the Centre. But nothing, in terms of compensation, came from the Centre to the state, both of which are ruled by the BJP.
“Every day when Siddaramaiah and Kumaraswamy attack the government for not getting flood relief from the Centre, it becomes difficult for our spokespersons to respond to questions from the media,’’ said a BJP legislator who insisted that he not be named.
Compare this with the immediate sanction of Rs 940 crores by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Tamil Nadu for flood relief when chief minister J Jayalalithaa was in power in January 2018. In fact, Siddaramaiah’s tweets on why the Prime Minister did not make an aerial survey of the flood affected districts when he came to Bengaluru for the Chandrayan-2 event, evoked no response.
Yediyurappa himself went to Delhi a couple of times to seek flood relief. On his last visit, Yediyurappa announced that the state government would itself release Rs 1000 crores immediately.
“The funds will come from the Centre in the next couple of days,’’ he told reporters soon after his return.
More than a couple of days later, the administration has received enough indications that having the same party at the Centre and the State has not helped Karnataka being treated as the Most Favoured State (MFS) like the AIADMK-ruled Tamil Nadu or unlike the Left Democratic Front (LDF) ruled Kerala.
It is not only in respect of flood relief that the Centre has not released funds. Even pending bills spent by the government in programmes like MNREGA have not been cleared. These itself amount to around Rs 1000 crores and more, according to one official estimate.
Yediyurappa has also had no say in the appointment of the state party president, a post that he had held for a long time. The central leadership of the party appointed Lok Sabha member from Dakshina Kannada, Nalin Kumar Kateel. And it is being seen as an effort to keep a check on Yediyurappa.
One of the latest moves has been the manner in which the chief minister was made to disband the committee to decide on the next Mayor of the city now that the BJP had taken control over the Brahut Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) or the city corporation.
In retrospect, a comment made by an RSS worker close to a senior leader in Delhi was not applicable only to the delay in the expansion of the ministry. He had said: “It was just that they wanted to give some trouble to him that his proposal for ministry formation has been delayed.”
It now appears that it is a routine that is being followed even when it comes to the requirements of the people of Karnataka like flood relief.
So the question being asked in circles close to Yediyurappa is: When will he lose his temper?
Yediyurappa is known to be on a short fuse most times. And in the last two months he has kept his cool, at least, in public.
Said a close associate, again, on condition of anonymity: “We ourselves cannot predict when he will blow his top. And the next two months are going to be crucial.”
It means that the run-up to the by-elections, now scheduled for December, is going to be far more important than the by-elections which are routinely held when a member passes away. The current vacancies are part of a political operation called Operation Kamala.
And it is critical for Yediyurappa to win a majority of the 15 seats so that he could get a simple majority in the assembly. If the BJP doesn’t win, the central leadership would be more than happy because it would then have achieved its goal.
That of holding mid-term elections and getting rid of Yediyurappa in the bargain.