A span of challenges, unfulfilled dreams
BS Yediyurappa’s resignation as the chief minister of Karnataka brought down curtains yet another time for him at the helm. In a political career spanning five decades, the 78-year-old might be the only politician in India to become the chief minister of a state four times and never complete his term, an indication of turbulence he faced in his long political career.
In 2007, he was in office for seven days, followed by the 2011 term, when he resigned over corruption charges after being CM for three years. In 2018, he was in office for two days, and in 2021, the BJP asked him to resign due to concerns over his age.
Even though his days in power saw trouble, his political growth from a clerk to the chief minister was a remarkable journey.
Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yediyurappa was born into a poor family in Mandya district in 1943.
After finishing his education, he got a job as a first-division clerk with the social welfare department and got posted in Shimoga (now Shivamoga) district in Karnataka in 1965, which later became his political home ground. The same year, he resigned from the job and joined Shankar rice mill as a clerk. Within a year, he married the daughter of the mill owner and started a hardware store.
Yediyurappa was involved with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since his teenage days, and after moving to Shikaripura in Shivamoga, he began taking part in active politics. By 1970, he got appointed as the secretary of RSS in Shikaripura, and in 1980, when the Bharatiya Janata Party was formed, he became one of the leaders who built the party in the state.
Since the formation of the BJP, his political career saw a steady growth. In 1983, he was elected to the assembly from Shikaripura. In 1988, he became the BJP state president, and by 1994, he became the leader of the opposition.
Over the decades of political circus in the state, consisting of a series of splits between the Congress, Janata Party, a coalition of parties, and untimely deaths of Lingayat-supported leaders resulted in the community vote share shifting to the BJP, and Yediyurappa becoming the face of the community.
With the support of the Lingayat community, under the leadership of Yediyurappa, the BJP became the single-largest party in 2004. Since the Congress and Janata Dal-Secular formed a coalition government, the party could not come to power. However, in 2006, that coalition collapsed.
The JD(S) then approached the BJP with the offer to form the government. As per the deal struck between the two parties, JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy would become the chief minister for the first 20 months, and Yediyurappa will be at the helm for the next 20 months. However, Kumaraswamy refused to vacate the seat, which resulted in another collapse of the government. On November 12, 2007, Yediyurappa became the chief minister, but only for seven days. The JD(S) withdrew support, which resulted in the BJP walking out of the coalition.
Riding on the sympathy wave, the BJP then swept the 2008 elections, and on May 30, 2008, Yediyurappa became the chief minister for the second time. However, the Karnataka Lokayukta investigating the illegal mining case submitted its report, indicting Yediyurappa for illegally profiteering from land deals in Bengaluru and Shivamoga. Yediyurappa was forced to resign on July 15, 2011, and in August 2011, he was arrested.
Upset over the party asking for his resignation, Yediyurappa resigned from the BJP and formed his party – Karnataka Janata Paksha – in November 2012. This move cost the BJP the 2013 Karnataka legislative election as, despite Yediyurappa winning only six seats, he ate into the BJP vote bank, resulting in the Congress victory.
In January 2014, after several rounds of talks with the BJP leaders, he returned to the party, and during the 2018 general election, the BJP emerged as the single-largest party.
“In the 2018 elections, despite the Modi wave, the BJP was relying on Yediyurappa’s pull over the Lingayat community. With the Congress trying to create a separate Lingayat religion, Yediyurappa stood his ground that the community cannot be divided, and it resulted in BJP becoming the single-largest party,” said a Congress leader on the condition of anonymity.
After the BJP became the single largest party, the Karnataka governor invited Yediyurappa to form the government but he could not prove the majority, resulting in him resigning as the chief minister on May 19, 2018, after two days in power. “Since the day Congress and the JD(S) formed the government he was trying to bring it down. He knew it was his last chance to be the chief minister, so they bought out MLAs offering them posts. He was desperate to become the chief minister in his last term,” the Congress leader added.
With his resignation on Monday, there are several questions about his role in the party. Yediyurappa, too, has made it clear that he will not leave the state or active politics. On multiple occasions, he has reiterated that he will continue to strengthen the party he helped build.