With Karnataka govt in place, leaders shift focus to vacant BJP state prez post
Now that BS Yediyurappa has the top job in Karnataka and the Bharatiya Janata Party is setting up its government in the state, the vacant post of the party’s state unit president’s that the chief minister held till recently has become an issue of debate.
Yediyurappa, who has been the state president since 2015, will vacate the party president’s post, a move that was on the cards even if the BJP had not formed the government. However, that path has now been cleared after the Congress-Janata Dal(Secular) government lost in last week’s floor test.
Till recently, the contest for the post was thought to be a three-cornered one between former deputy chief minister R Ashok and state general secretaries Arvind Limbavali and CT Ravi. With the government formation, though, Ashok, multiple senior leaders confirmed had dropped out of the race.
Ashok, who was also the home minister in the BJP government between 2008 and 2013, is believed to favour a ministerial post, a leader close to Yediyurappa said. Thus, leaders suggested that the fight was really between Ravi and Limbavali.
All the leaders who spoke to HT asked that they not be named for fear of reprisal from the seniors in the party.
Both Ravi and Limbavali have strong links to the BJP’s ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and have come through the ranks. However, the selection from here on will depend on what strategy the party will want to adopt.
Ravi, who gained prominence through the Baba Budangiri movement that was referred to as the Ayodhya of the south, hails from the Vokkaliga community and with a Lingayat as a chief minister, the BJP will be seen as a dominant caste party. This though might have repercussions, as former state backward classes chairperson CS Dwarkanath said that together the communities constituted just about 26% of the state’s population – Lingayats constitute about 14% and Vokkaligas about 12%, he said.
Besides, in the recent Lok Sabha elections where the party achieved a near sweep of the 28 constituencies in the state, of the 18 BJP lawmakers from non-reserved constituencies, 16 belonged to the Lingayat, Vokkaliga and Brahmin communities.
Though the party has tried to dismiss suggestions of its dominant caste nature in those polls, it is worried, especially because former chief minister and Congress Legislature Party chief Siddaramaiah has hinted that his mobilisation while in the opposition will be based on addressing this issue.
However, Ravi has one other advantage. As a leader from the Chickamagaluru district, he helped the party win the important seat of Hassan in last year’s assembly polls. His protégé Preetham Gowda’s victory there suggested that the BJP might finally be able to make inroads in the southern Old Mysuru region.
The selection of Limbavali, who hails from a Schedule Caste community, will provide the BJP with a different dimension, more so in light of the fact that it won all seven reserved constituencies in the state in the Lok Sabha polls. Besides, he was one of only two leaders who were involved in dealing with rebels from the coalition, whose resignations resulted in the coalition’s collapse.
Limbavali’s prospects though were dulled after an alleged fake sex video of the party general secretary was leaked. It even became a talking point in the assembly during the trust vote of the coalition and Limbavali was reduced to tears on the floor of the House, and he asked then speaker KR Ramesh Kumar to order an investigation to verify if the video was part of a conspiracy by leaders of the coalition or even some within his own party.
“It will be difficult for Limbavali to overcome this setback,” a senior BJP leader said. “If the central leadership persists with him it will be a mark of his loyalty. However, his proximity to Yediyurappa might also not work in his favour,” the leader added.
Another BJP leader from the anti-Yediyurappa camp, one of its senior-most from the state, said that the party’s central leadership was in no mood to promote Yediyurappa’s faction.
“Look at the recent selection of Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri as the Speaker. Till Monday evening, the Yediyurappa camp was confident that former Speaker KG Bopaiah would be the party’s choice but the central leadership would have none of that,” the leader said.
A senior leader of the BJP organisation, though, cautioned against jumping to conclusions. He said that the party was not bound by any constraints in naming the state president.
“Many of those vying for the post have declared themselves the candidate,” said the leader, who is one of the topmost in the party organisation. “We might well pull off a complete surprise because we have our own thoughts on this matter and the central leadership is not bound by the opinions of state leaders,” he said.