In swan-song as MLA in Karnataka Assembly, BJP veteran BS Yediyurappa recalls political journey

The four-time chief minister, instrumental in building the BJP from scratch in Karnataka, is still the party's face for the Assembly polls.

BySouth First Desk

Published Feb 24, 2023 | 10:18 PMUpdatedFeb 24, 2023 | 10:20 PM

POCSO case against BS Yediyurappa

Flanked by ministers and leaders of the BJP, former Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa walked down the grand steps of the Vidhana Soudha on the evening of Friday, 24 February, one last time as MLA.

The veteran Lingayat strongman has announced his retirement from contesting elections, making Friday his last day as an MLA.

A four-time chief minister of Karnataka, 79-year-old BS Yediyurappa delivered a heartfelt, emotional farewell speech full of gratitude for the people who elected him and those who taught him.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was the reason for his growth to this high stature in public life, said the Karnataka BJP strongman on Friday in his last speech in the Legislative Assembly, of which he was a member for decades.

Hailing former prime minister HD Deve Gowda as a “role model”, Yediyurappa also advocated for more representation of women in the Assembly.

Friday was the last day of the 15th Assembly of Karnataka legislature, as the state is due to go to polls by May.

‘Will continue to serve people’

Yediyurappa has pledged to bring the BJP back to power in Karnataka, and promised to work “until his dying breath” for the people.

“More women should get elected and come to this House. Male members should also cooperate and make space for more women members to get elected. This is my appeal,” Yediyurappa said in the Assembly.

Expressing gratitude to the people of the Shikaripura constituency in Shivamogga district for electing him repeatedly, he said working for the welfare of the people of the segment and enjoying their confidence was the duty of every legislator.

Yediyurappa, while participating in the debate on the Budget on 22 February, had made a similar speech in the Assembly, which he had called his “farewell speech”.

In July last year, he announced that he would not be contesting the Assembly polls, and would be vacating his Shikaripura Assembly seat, from where his younger son and party’s state vice-president BY Vijayendra would contest if the BJP high command agreed.

Also read: Nobody can finish me off politically, says Yediyurappa

Yediyurappa recalls his political journey

The veteran leader, who began his political career as the municipal council president in Shikaripura, was first elected to the Assembly from that seat in 1983, and went on to win eight times from there.

Noting that on 27 February he would turn 80, and on that special occasion Prime Minister Narendra Modi was coming to Karnataka for the inauguration of the Shivamogga airport, Yediyurappa said, “He saying that he will come on my birthday for inaugurating the airport has made me feel overwhelmed with joy and satisfaction.”

He added: “In my life, I got several good opportunities from being a normal “Purasabha” member to becoming the chief minister. In those days, when roads were not good, I had the good fortune of travelling across the state and various districts with (former prime minister) Atal Bihari Vajpayee.”

He recalled how he would begin a meeting, but by the time central leaders like Vajpayee, Murli Manohar Joshi, and LK Advani came to them, he would have started addressing the next meeting. “This is how we tried to build the party,” said Yediyurappa.

Recalling that there was no one along with him during the initial days of the party, the Lingayat strongman said, “At one point we had only two MLAs in the Assembly, and after Vasantha Bangera quit, I was left alone.”

Yet, he persevered, he said.

“I never looked back, and sitting on that side (Opposition), I honestly fought for the cause of the people and issues concerning the state. What gave me the most satisfaction was my fight to get justice — both in the Assembly and in Shivamogga — for the farmers who did unauthorised cultivation, by staging dharnas. Finally, responding to it, then chief minister SM Krishna solved the issue,” he said.

Yediyurappa was asked to resign as chief minister on 26 July, 2021, by the central leadership of the BJP. His age was cited as the reason behind the demand, with an unwritten rule in the BJP of keeping out those above 75 years from elected offices.

The BJP central leadership also wanted to make way for fresh leadership ahead of the Assembly polls, but that plan of the BJP seems to have failed.

The party has now reverted to BS Yediyurappa, with the likes of Union Home Minister Amit Shah seeking votes in Yediyurappa’s name instead of current members in the government, including Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai.

Also read: Yediyurappa wooed by PM Modi ahead of Karnataka polls

BSY credits RSS, calls Deve Gowda ‘role model’

“If I have grown to this high stature today, the reason for it is the RSS, and the training I got there gave me the opportunities to hold various positions. I can never forget this in my life,” said Yediyurappa.

Calling JD(S) supremo Deve Gowda a “role model”, he said, “It is not a small thing. Even today, at his age (89), he thinks about matters related to the country and the state, and gives guidance. We need no role model other than this. I believe there are a lot of things to learn from Deve Gowda.”

Pausing for some time during the speech, probably filled with emotion, Yediyurappa continued, “I’m not able to understand what to speak and what not to, but I will be indebted to the people of my taluk, who gave me an opportunity to be part of this august House, and I will continue to serve them with honesty till the last breath of my life.”

Observing that this was his last session in the Assembly, the former chief minister said, “All of you should get elected and come back. I have decided that I will not contest the polls, and being outside (the Assembly) I will work to build the party and its victory till the last breath of my life. There are no second thoughts on this.”

He also said: “I will tour the state in the coming days, and work to bring the BJP back to power. That’s my goal. I will not spend even a day for myself…. No need for you (BJP MLAs) to be disturbed…”

Also read: BJP just can’t do without Yediyurappa in Karnataka

The BJP’s victory in the coming Assembly election was certain, he asserted.

Praising Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri for effectively running the House, Yediyurappa on the last day of the 15th Assembly appealed to Bommai to ensure that Kageri, in the next Assembly, sat on this ruling side and did good work as a minister.

He also lauded the chief minister for his work towards the betterment of SC/ST communities and others. “People of the state have appreciated it and in the coming days we will see its benefits.”

Yediyurappa also praised Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah for fulfilling his duty with full commitment and with a thorough study on various issues concerning the state.