BS Yediyurappa (C) gestures as he speaks to the medias outside the Governor's official residence Raj Bhavan after tendering resignation to his post in Bengaluru. (AFP)
BS Yediyurappa (C) gestures as he speaks to the medias outside the Governor's official residence Raj Bhavan after tendering resignation to his post in Bengaluru. (AFP)

Yediyurappa resigns as CM after a ‘trial by fire’

The resignation -- which came roughly 10 days after he travelled to Delhi and met Modi and Shah -- triggered speculation about his successor.
By Arun Dev, Bengaluru
UPDATED ON JUL 27, 2021 12:16 AM IST

Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yediyurappa resigned as the chief minister of Karnataka on Monday, ending months of speculation due to growing dissidence within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the only southern state it has ever been in power.

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 . The four-time chief minister, who battled criticism and public attacks from within his party and cabinet over the past three months, said he quit “voluntarily” and thanked the BJP.

“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.”

He also scotched rumours of having accepted a gubernatorial posting. “Atal Bihari Vajpayee had offered me to become the central minister when he was the PM, I had said no… There is no question of becoming governor. I will work to strengthen the organisation in Karnataka. I have not asked for any position, nor will accept it,” he said.

The resignation -- which came roughly 10 days after he travelled to Delhi and met Modi and Shah -- triggered speculation about his successor.

BJP national general secretary and Karnataka in-charge Arun Singh said the decision was left to the party’s parliamentary board and legislature party. “I will not say now. The parliamentary board of the BJP will decide the next chief minister and in the legislature party meeting,” Singh told reporters in Delhi without mentioning a date for the meeting.

But party leaders said on condition of anonymity said the meeting was likely to occur on Tuesday with Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan as the central observer. Gehlot asked Yediyurappa to continue as caretaker chief minister until his successor is appointed.

When asked if he had suggested a replacement for chief minister, Yediyurappa said, “I have not given any names, nor will I suggest anyone. Who should be made [the next CM] is left to the central leadership. I will continue doing my work.”

Senior party leaders told HT that among the contenders were Union minister Pralhad Joshi, BJP national general secretary CT Ravi, national organising secretary BL Santhosh, and assembly speaker Vishveshwar Hegde Kageri. Joshi, Santosh and Kageri are Brahmins; Ravi, the MLA from Chikkamagaluru, is a Vokkaliga, Karnataka’s second-largest community concentrated in southern Karnataka, where the party is trying to make inroads.

If the party looks to replacing Yediyurappa with another leader from the dominant Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, probable names include mining minister Murugesh Nirani, industries minister Jagadish Shettar and MLAs Arvind Bellad and Basanagouda Patil Yatnal.

Nirani is a businessman-politician whose repeated Delhi visits in recent months have raised eyebrows in party circles. Shettar earlier served as chief minister between 2012 and 2013. Bellad and Yatnal were among the most trenchant critics of Yediyurappa who publicly sought his ouster.

A Lingayat strongman, Yediyurappa is credited with having built the BJP from the grassroots in the 2000s and leading the party to its first victory in a southern state in 2008. He has pan-state appeal and nurtured the Lingayats -- comprising roughly 16% of Karnataka’s population -- as a reliable vote bank for the BJP. Even in his last days in office, he rallied support from influential Lingayat seers and mutts.

But his legacy is tarnished by multiple corruption charges, including that of bribing and influencing Opposition legislators to prove his government’s majority. He resigned in 2011 after being indicted in a corruption case. He briefly left the BJP to form the Karnataka Janata Paksha, which bruised the BJP in the 2013 elections, before merging his outfit with the BJP a year later.

He battled rising dissidence during his last year, especially over his son and Karnataka BJP vice-president BY Vijayendra. Several party leaders and ministers accused Vijayendra -- Yediyurappa’s younger son -- of corruption, heavy handedness and running a parallel administration. BY Raghavendra, Yediyurappa’s elder son, is the MP from Shivamogga.

Yediyurappa became chief minister for a fourth time in 2019 after the previous Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government collapsed following the sudden resignation of 17 legislators.After surviving with a thin majority for four months, Yediyurappa led the BJP to success in assembly bypolls in 2019,with the party winning 12 of 15 seats.Ten of the former Congress-JD(S) legislators were made ministers later.

In his final speech as chief minister, Yediyurappa termed the two years in office as a “trial by fire”, saying he was not allowed to form a cabinet when the state was marooned in devastating floods in 2019.

“I had decided to resign two months ago, as we complete two years of our government today. I thought it was apt to resign now and have submitted the resignation to the governor, and he has accepted it,” he said.

Asserting that he will continue in politics and work to bring the BJP back to power, he said, “The party has nurtured me to this height, most probably no other politician in the country has got the privileges that I have got,” he said.

Shikaripura, Yediyurappa’s constituency in Shimoga district that he won eight times, wore a deserted look with shops and other commercial establishments shut in protest. In Hassan, supporters of Yediyurappa took out a march on the main streets and shouted slogans in his support.

An influential religious leader who met Yediyurappa last week said the Karnataka BJP will be washed away in tears due to Yediyurappa’s resignation. “BS Yediyurappa has given his resignation in pain. Karnataka BJP will be washed away in tears. BJP should reconsider its decision,” Dingaleshwara Swami, the chief of Balehosur Mutt, said.

The Congress demanded the ouster of the BJP government.

“There is no benefit for the common man if one corrupt CM is removed to make another corrupt as CM. Instead, the whole BJP party, which is responsible for the miseries of people, should be ousted,” former chief minister Siddaramaiah, who is Leader of Opposition in the Karnataka assembly, tweeted.

(With agency inputs)

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