K'taka polls: Bommai as BJP campaign chief to limit Yediyurappa’s influence | Bengaluru - Hindustan Times
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Karnataka election: Bommai chosen as BJP's campaign chief to limit Yediyurappa’s influence over party, leaders

Mar 12, 2023 05:12 AM IST

Another Karnataka BJP leader pointed out that there was opposition to Yediyurappa’s appointment as the ECC chief since it would give more powers to his younger son BY Vijayendra, who is considered the BJP veteran’s successor.

Bengaluru: The appointment of Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai as the chairman of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign committee for the upcoming state assembly elections is a move by the party’s central leadership to curtail the influence wielded by Lingayat strongman and former chief minster B S Yediyurappa over the state unit for decades, BJP leaders familiar with the development said.

Bharatiya Janata Party’s central leadership picked chief minister Basavaraj Bommai as the campaign committee chief for the upcoming Karnataka assembly elections. (ANI)
Bharatiya Janata Party’s central leadership picked chief minister Basavaraj Bommai as the campaign committee chief for the upcoming Karnataka assembly elections. (ANI)

Also Read: Karnataka BJP releases the Election Campaign Committee; Bommai named as chairman

In the run-up to the crucial assembly polls, the BJP was sending a strong signal that seasoned oarsman Yediyurappa will be the party’s key poll mascot, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Have faith in Yediyurappa and Modi,” said Union home minister Amit Shah during his visit to the state earlier this month. Defence minister Rajnath Singh asked party leaders and workers to fulfil Yediyurappa’s dream of achieving a clear majority for the BJP in Karnataka in assembly polls. The praises from the high command had fuelled speculations that Yediyurappa will be made the chief of the Election Campaign Committee (ECC). But the central leadership on Friday announced Bommai as the chairman of the committee and Yediyurappa was made a member under him.

The announcement has resulted in confusion and anguish, particularly among the Yediyurappa supporters. The party leadership has said Bommai is the natural choice since he had taken over the top post from Yediyurappa, who is now 80 years old. The grapevine within the party also points towards the RSS camp in the BJP, headed by BL Santosh, opposing Yediyurappa taking control over the party affairs.

Also Read: BJP strong at grassroots level, Congress may win 65 seats: CM Bommai

“It is no secret in the party that BL Santosh and Yediyurappa have their differences. The RSS faction wants control over the functioning of the party, but they are aware that Yediyurappa is crucial for the party’s victory. The praises showered by the leaders were part of massaging his (Yediyurappa’s) ego, but when it came to the big decision the BL Santosh camp wanted their appointee there,” said a senior BJP legislator who didn’t want to be named.

The leader added that Yediyurappa opposing the hijab and halal controversies, which were poll strategies proposed by the RSS faction, hasn’t gone well with many from this faction.

Another leader pointed out that there was opposition to Yediyurappa’s appointment as the ECC chief since it would give more powers to his younger son BY Vijayendra, who is considered the BJP veteran’s successor. “Even if Yediyurappa was made the chief, Vijayendra would be running the show. This was true even when Yediyurappa was the chief minister. Several leaders had opposed Vijayendra’s control of the administration,” said another BJP leader.

The 25-member Karnataka BJP election campaign committee, announced by the party on Friday, has a slew of senior state leaders as its members, including Yediyurappa and Vijayendra, state party president Nalin Kateel, several Union ministers and key caste leaders.

“The fear is that even after Yediyurappa is retired, his family continues to dominate the party. Many leaders, including some holding big posts in the party’s high command, don’t want this. There is resistance in many sections of the BJP against the former CM or his family continuing to exert influence on the state unit,” the leader quoted above added.

The Yediyurappa camp however is not happy with the decision. A senior supporter pointed out that Bommai has not been able to make an impact in administration or within the Lingayat community. “He has also made things worse since taking over. Just look at the terms of Yediyurappa and Bommai. When did the anti-incumbency start? Now, he (Bommai) is also a Lingayat leader but the community is out on the streets protesting for reservation. If the party is going to make the chief Minister the face (in the assembly polls), it is going to be a big mistake,” said an MLA and long-term associate of Yediyurappa.

The MLA added that even if the party has decided otherwise the “feelings” within the party are clear on who is the big leader. “Look at how MLAs want Yediyurappa to address rallies in their constituencies. How many want Bommai? Even with the CM post, Bommai is not able to pull a crowd,” the leader added.

Meanwhile, Bommai, who has a good working relationship with Kateel, said on Friday that the BJP’s strength has been its booth-level organisation. “There has been a tremendous response from the people to the work done by Yediyurappa, the work of PM Modi in the last eight years, and work done by my government in the last one-and-a-half years. The BJP will come to power with a majority.”

BJP president JP Nadda also approved a 14-member election management committee that will be headed by Union minister Shobha Karandlaje, making it her first active role in the affairs of the BJP in the state since her election to the Lok Sabha in 2014. Karandlaje is a Vokkaliga and the party is hoping to woo the second-largest vote bank in the state with her appointment. However, a senior leader said, “Karandlaje is a Vokkaliga from Sirsi and not from the Old Mysuru region which has the largest Vokkaliga population.”

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