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Karnataka setback may deliver a harsh blow to Yeddyurappa’s political career, say BJP leaders

BJP insiders and political analysts say the BJP might need Yeddyurappa till the 2019 general elections to consolidate Lingayat votes, but may dump him thereafter and groom younger leaders.

Karnataka Elections 2018 Updated: May 21, 2018 09:50 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
BJP,Congress,JD(S)
BS Yeddyurappa, 75, belongs to the Lingayat community, which makes up around 15% of the Karnataka population.(Arijit Sen/HT Photo)

BS Yeddyurappa’s failure to prove a majority in the Karnataka assembly may not only have deprived him of the chief minister’s post — in which he spent all of 55 hours — but also an opportunity to remain relevant in the Karnataka unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party, insiders say.

“Difficult times will start for him after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” a BJP leader said, requesting anonymity. “The BJP may need him till then, to consolidate Lingayat votes in the next general election.”

Yeddyurappa, 75, belongs to the Lingayat community, which makes up around 15% of the Karnataka population.

That a Lingayat leader was ousted as chief minister by the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) will be BJP’s major talking point in Karnataka in the run-up to the 2019 elections, the BJP leader cited above said.

A second BJP leader said the party may not dump him immediately as the alliance between the Congress and the JD(S) will be a formidable opponent and the BJP will need all its warhorses to win the 2019 general election battle.

“BSY is certainly not the BJP’s face for the next assembly polls. He will be too old by then. He can enjoy his prominence till the 2019 election,” the second leader said.

The BJP ignored its undeclared rule of keeping 75-plus leaders out of ministerial posts to project Yeddyurappa as the chief ministerial face in Karnataka.

“Age is not on his side, and so is the timing of the politics. The party projected him to woo the Lingayat votes and will now dump him like it did LK Advani. It is the end of road for him and he will be treated as spent force in Karnataka,” said Harish Ramaswamy, a professor of political science at the Dharwad-based Karnataka University.

Several BJP leaders said the exception to the undeclared age limit was made to give a place of prominence to Yeddyurappa, who could have helped the party win back the Lingayat community, which ditched the BJP in the last election and went with the veteran, who had in 2013 fought the polls as the leader of his own political party, which he formed after leading the BJP in 2012.

His Karnataka Janata Paksha polled about 10% of the votes and caused BJP’s defeat in over 30 seats, mostly in Lingayat-dominated areas. He was back in the BJP ahead of parliamentary polls in 2014, and won the Lok Sabha election from Shimoga.

The second BJP leader quoted above said there were clear signals in the just concluded election that the party wanted to groom a new set of leaders and look beyond BSY. The former chief minister could not secure an election ticket for his son Vijayendra, and loyalist Shobha Karandlaje.

Younger BJP leaders like B Sriramulu and Ananth Kumar Hegde, too, got prominence this time around, unlike in the 2008 election when the Lingayat leader ran the entire show.

“Even if he win the next Lok Sabha election and the BJP returns to power, a ministerial position for him in New Delhi is unlikely,” the second leader said. “The BJP may not break the 75-plus rule twice.”

BSY had been expecting a ministerial position in the Narendra Modi government in 2014 after winning the Lok Sabha election, but was ignored. BJP leaders had then cited pending corruption charges against him as a reason. A special CBI court cleared him in the graft case in October 2016.

The former rice-mill worker from Shimoga is credited with shaping the BJP into what it is today in Karnataka, the first state in southern India in which it formed a government.

Yeddyurappa has risen from the ranks of the RSS and been a seven-term member of the Karnataka assembly between 1983 and 2013. He had a meteoric rise in the Karnataka BJP before a run-in with veteran Advani in 2011 over a land scam cost him the chief minister’s job.

First Published: May 20, 2018 23:18 IST