Basavaraj Bommai is the son of 11th chief minister of Karnataka, SR Bommai. (HT photo)
Basavaraj Bommai is the son of 11th chief minister of Karnataka, SR Bommai. (HT photo)

Basavaraj Bommai to be new Karnataka CM

Bommai, a Lingayat like Yediyurappa, was minister for home affairs, law, parliamentary affairs and legislature in Yediyurappa’s council of ministers, which was dissolved on Monday, and is considered close to the former chief minister.
By Arun Dev, Bengaluru
UPDATED ON JUL 28, 2021 12:33 AM IST

Basavaraj Bommai, 61, will replace BS Yediyurappa as the chief minister of Karnataka, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) legislative party decided on Tuesday, with Bommai set to be sworn in on Wednesday, two days after the 78-year-old announced his resignation at an event to commemorate two years of his government.

Bommai, a Lingayat like Yediyurappa, was minister for home affairs, law, parliamentary affairs and legislature in Yediyurappa’s council of ministers, which was dissolved on Monday, and is considered close to the former chief minister.

“The legislative party has elected Bommai ji as its chief,” announced Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who was one of the two central observers for legislative party meeting held at Capital Hill, a hotel in Central Bengaluru. Union minister G Kishan Reddy was the other central observer at the meeting.

“The new leader’s proposal was made by senior leader BS Yediyurappa and was supported by Govind Karjol, R Ashok, KS Eshwarappa, B Sriramulu, ST Somashekar and Poornima Srinivas,” he added.

After the announcement, Bommai said he will work towards completing the projects initiated by the former chief minister. “It is a big responsibility in the given situation… BS Yediyurappa has worked for more than 40 years to build this party. He has taken the state through two Covid-19 waves and floods. The directions given by him will help me work for the Dalits, farmers, backwards communities, women and young.”

“This (fulfilling Yediyurappa’s projects) will be a priority. Secondly, we are facing Covid-19, and floods as well. This will remain a priority as well,” Bommai said.

Yediyurappa resigned on Monday, exactly two years after taking charge, “on health grounds”, even as dissent against him was growing within the BJP in Karnataka. He has vowed to work for the party in Karnataka and said he will not take a central government responsibility.

Basavaraj Bommai is son of former Karnataka chief minister SR Bommai, who was removed as the Janata Dal chief minister in 1989 following large-scale defections without being given the opportunity to prove majority on the floor of the House. It was on SR Bommai’s petition that a nine-member bench of the Supreme Court, in 1994, imposed restrictions on dismissal of state governments under Article 356 of the Constitution.

Basavaraj Bommai began his political career with his father’s party and worked with senior party leaders such as HD Deve Gowda and Ramakrishna Hegde before he left and joined the BJP in February 2008. According to a party leader, Basavaraj joined the BJP at the behest of Yediyurappa. He has over 33 years of legislative experience, having been elected to the legislative council in 1998.

At the legislative party meeting, Yediyurappa proposed his name, which was approved unanimously, Pradhan said. “The legislative party meeting ended in just five minutes and everyone agreed to his (Bommai’s) name,” a BJP legislator said on condition of anonymity.

According to another leader, Bommai’s elevation should ensure smooth transition of both the government and the party from Yediyurappa, a four-time chief minister and the most powerful BJP leader in the state. “Bommai is likely to retain the same cabinet as Yediyurappa to prevent dissidence and would accommodate rebel Congress legislators who joined the BJP,” the senior party leader said, asking not to be named. He, however, did not rule out a reshuffle of portfolios.

Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar congratulated Bommai on his selection as the new chief minister. “Congratulations to Sri @BSBommai for being selected as the next Chief Minister of Karnataka. Congress party and the state hopes that the focus will be back on governance now,” Shivakumar tweeted.

The selection of Bommai, who is from the Lingayat community, comes after several pontiffs from Lingayat mutts in the state advised the BJP central leadership against removing Yediyurappa, a tall leader of the community.

The Lingayat community forms close to 16% of the state’s population and has been a loyal vote base for the party. Even though there was speculation of the BJP appointing a leader from a different community, eventually, it zeroed down on the Lingayat leader.

The new chief minister was announced after Yediyurappa’s resignation ended months of speculation amid growing dissidence within the BJP in the only southern state.

The 78-year-old made the announcement in an emotional speech at an event celebrating two years in power before submitting his resignation to governor Thaawarchand Gehlot.

“I’m not sad. I’m happy. I can’t thank in words PM Modi, Amit Shah, and JP Nadda to let me be the chief minister even though I was over 75 years,” said Yediyurappa. “There is no question of political retirement for any reason, I’m with the karyakartas and the people.”

Arun Singh, incharge of party affairs in Karnataka, along with Pradhan and others held the crucial meeting of the MLAs in Bengaluru. Bommai was informed about the party leadership’s decision to appoint him as the CM about half an hour before the legislative party meeting, the second leader said.

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