Since Tuesday, 10 January, former Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa had been asking his team to prepare for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in Karnataka. The veteran leader and BJP parliamentary board member was all set to attend the inaugural ceremony of the National Youth Festival kickstarted by Modi on Thursday.
Except, an invitation for him to join the ceremony never came.
While BJP used “protocol of government event” as an excuse to justify why it did not invite Yediyurappa, confidants of the Lingayat strongman pointed to at least three different instances in the past when the party leadership in Karnataka snubbed him.
“It isn’t an exception, but a pattern,” a close aide of Yediyurappa told South First.
“The man who was keen on going to Hubballi — a region that has a huge Lingayat population among whom Yediyurappa has great sway — was forced to sit at home and watch the India-Sri Lanka match,” said a staffer in Yediyurappa’s office.
“By Wednesday evening, when it had become clear that he would not be invited to the event, he didn’t want to sulk and instead took us all out to eat dosa,” joked the staffer.
But his repeated snubbing is no laughing matter around the former chief minister who has, in the past, defended the party and the government when questions were raised about him being sidelined.
“This was a government event organised under Union Ministry of Youth affairs and Sports. BS Yediyurappa will be given space in all political event but this was a government event. There is no need to invite an MLA and a former Chief Minister for it. It is a non-existent issue,” an official from Karnataka Chief Minister’s office said.
Another BJP MLA – Arvind Bellad representing Hubli-Dharwad west seat- however was sharing stage with PM Modi at Thursday’s event. Former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar wasn’t given an invitation to the event as well despite being an incumbent MLA from Hubli-Dharwad Central seat. “That was an error by the organisers and it was corrected, albeit at the last moment,” the CMO official said.
His aides said the state government had omitted Yediyurappa’s name from its list of guests sent for approval to the PMO in November last year when Modi came to inaugurate the new terminal at Bengaluru airport and unveil a giant statue of Kempegowda.
“The list of dignitaries sent by the state government did not have Yediyurappa’s name. It was the PMO that took notice of it and added Yediyurappa’s name into the list of invitees. But by the time the PMO communication reached, it was nearly midnight on 10 November. PM Modi arrived early morning on 11 November. That is why Yediyurappa wasn’t there in the Kanakadasa statue tribute but could only join the Kempegowda statue unveil later in the day,” one of Yediyurappa’s secretaries told South First.
Yediyurappa’s photos going missing from BJP posters at party events, his supporters and family members being sidelined — all of this is being quietly noted by the former chief minister, his aides said.
Again, during BJP president JP Nadda’s visit to Koppal in December — a party event — Yediyurappa was not invited, his team said.
It was only after the media highlighted his omission that the central leadership of the party hurriedly got Karnataka in-charge General Secretary Arun Singh to call Yediyurappa late on the eve of Nadda’s scheduled event to convince him to participate.
“Nobody can finish me off politically,” BS Yediyurappa had then said cryptically even as he defended the party and denied not being invited.
When Amit Shah visited Mandya in the last week of December, BS Yediyurappa was not part of the event. He was abroad.
“Had the party asked him to stay back for Shah’s event, he would have; but party didn’t bother to ask. It would not have been the first time that he would have cancelled a prior schedule for party work” another confidant of Yediyurappa told South First.
It was different before
“It was different when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Mangaluru in September last year. He took BS Yediyurappa by hand on to the stage. It is the leaders in the State unit who seem to believe that they do not need Yediyurappa anymore. Forget BSY, for Thursday’s event, the local MLA and former chief minister Jagadish Shettar wasn’t invited. It was only after media questioned that he was called to the event,” the BSY confidant added.
The anger of Yeduruppa’s supporters is specifically directed at BJP National General Secretary (Organisation) BL Santhosh, Union Minister Pralhad Joshi, and leaders of state BJP close to him, including Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and MLA Arvind Bellad.
“Some people in the state unit of the party want to show that the BJP can win an election without Yediyurappa and his appeal. Yediyurappa is still an influential leader who is willing to work for the party. His intent is to ensure the BJP returns to power, but the party’s leaders don’t want him around,” Yediyurappa’s aide said, adding that, though quiet, the former chief minister is miffed by the constant snubbing.
The Lingayat vote bank
“Like BJP state president Nalin Kumar Kateel said, it is a ‘karyakarta party and not one single leader’s’. The party is not dependent on an individual leader. Why should Yediyurappa be given space anyway when his presence won’t make a difference?” a confidant of Yediyurappa said sarcastically.
The BJP’s internal survey has raised concerns over the party possibly losing Lingayat votes — its strongest vote bank in the state.
With the Lingayat community’s tallest leader being perceived as being snubbed by the party, Yediyurappa’s aides suggest it may add to the BJP’s woes in the upcoming Assembly election.
The apparent snub isn’t being missed by anyone, especially rival parties like the Congress.