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Chief minister’s post hasn’t come easy for BJP’s Karnataka strongman BS Yeddyurappa

Karnataka CM BS Yeddyurappa has defied the undeclared age bar in BJP on any leader to hold a ministerial post, probably because he is too heavyweight for the party to invoke such a rule.

Karnataka Elections 2018 Updated: May 17, 2018 17:48 IST
Yeddyurappa Karnataka CM,Yeddyurappa,Yeddyurappa swearing in
BJP leaders BS Yeddyurappa was sworn in as Karnataka’s new chief minister on Thursday morning.(Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

BJP’s Karnataka strongman BS Yeddyurappa turned 75 in February and crossed the undeclared age-bar in the party for any leader to hold a ministerial position.

But, BSY, as the Lingayat leader is known in Karnataka, was too heavyweight for the party to invoke such a rule and edge him out of the race for the top post.

On Thursday, Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa returned as the chief minister of the southern state that he won for the BJP for the first time since 2008. But, not without a few nervous moments. Though short of the majority mark of 112, the BJP staked claim to form the government, so did the Congress-JD (S) combine, with 78 and 37 seats respectively.

On Wednesday night, Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala invited Yeddyurappa to form the government on the basis of being the leader of the single-largest party, provoking an immediate and angry reaction from the Congress, which challenged the decision in the Supreme Court.

The SC in its early Thursday early morning order allowed BSY to take oath and posted the next hearing for Thursday.

The chief ministership hasn’t come easy to him. He had won the Lok Sabha election from Karnataka and was expecting to get a ministerial position in the Narendra Modi government.

He missed the bus, and took months to recover from the setback. He was convinced through a set of loyalists that it was not the end of the road for him.

Denied a job in Delhi, he turned his focus to Karnataka, only to deal with factionalism in the state BJP and chief ministerial ambitions of about half a dozen colleagues. The struggle continued and BSY kept convincing party leadership’s that he needed to be in control of the situation in Karnataka to win the state.

The first milestone was crossed in April 2016 when the BJP decided to appoint him the president of Karnataka BJP.

A few months later, in October, a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court cleared him in a corruption case.

It was a huge relief for BSY and the BJP, which had by then started contemplating appointing him the CM candidate. A formal announcement was made in May 2017.

He had a meteoric rise in the Karnataka BJP before having a run in with party veteran LK Advani in 2011 in the wake of a land scam that cost him the chief minister’s job. He walked out of the BJP in 2012 to float his outfit, the Karnataka Janta Paksha (KJP), which dealt a severe blow to his former party in the 2013 assembly elections. The KJP polled about 10% votes and caused the BJP’s defeat in over 30 seats. He was back in the BJP ahead of elections in 2014.

Born in a modest family from the Vokkaliga-dominated Mandya district, the former rice-mill worker in Shimoga is credited with shaping the Bharatiya Janata Party into what it is today in Karnataka.

Yeddyurappa has risen from the ranks of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – the BJP’s ideological mentor – and has been a seven-term member of the Karnataka assembly between 1983 and 2013.

He joined the Hindu right organisation when he was barely 15, and cut his political teeth in the Jana Sangh, the BJP’s forerunner, in his hometown Shikaripura in Shivamogga district.

He became the Jana Sangh’s Shikaripura taluka chief in the early 1970s.

A Bachelor of Arts, Yeddurappa, who was jailed during Emergency, worked as a clerk in the social welfare department before taking up a similar job at a rice mill in his native Shikaripura. Later, he set up his own hardware shop in Shivamogga.

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First Published: May 17, 2018 09:22 IST