‘Modi first, Yediyurappa later’: Why Karnataka BJP is confident dissent won’t affect its poll prospects

Despite discontent, the party's collective aim is to ensure the return of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister for the third consecutive term.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Mar 27, 2024 | 12:00 PMUpdatedMar 27, 2024 | 10:14 PM

Karnataka BJP KS Eshwarappa BS Yediyurappa Haveri Gadag Dharwad Mysuru Lok Sabha Polls

The dissent in the BJP’s Karnataka unit is not likely to affect the party’s prospects in the two-phased Lok Sabha elections in the state.

A section of the party leaders and workers are miffed over the national leadership giving prominence to the former chief minister and BJP’s parliamentary board committee member, BS Yediyurappa, and his family.

At least two bigwigs have openly voiced their discontent. Former deputy chief minister KS Eshwarappa declared that he would contest from Shivamogga as an Independent candidate against the incumbent MP and Yediyurappa’s elder son, BY Raghavendra.

Yediyurappa loyalists, however, contested that the BJP bit the dust in the May 2023 Assembly polls since the party had sidelined their leader.

Post-poll debacle, the BJP central leadership made Yediyurappa’s son, 48-year-old first-time MLA BY Vijayendra, the president of its state unit.

Though many frowned at Vijayendra’s elevation, the discontent within the party became more evident after the BJP announced its candidates for the Lok Sabha.

While several senior leaders openly — many others in private — expressed dismay over the allocations of tickets and the leadership’s decisions, the party argued that the differences would not affect its prospects at the hustings.

However, the discord within the party unit after octogenarian Lingayat leader Yediyurappa gained prominence has become a headache to the party.

The Lingayats comprise 17 percent of the state’s population and could sway the poll outcome in several constituencies.

Related: Yediyurappa says efforts on to resolve issues

‘Yediyurappa is a whale’

Several BJP leaders opined that the dissent would have little impact on the BJP’s prospects in the state’s 28 Parliament constituencies. However, they felt that the discord would snowball into a major issue after the elections, scheduled for 26 April and 7 May.

The dissent was more evident in Shivamogga, Bangalore North, Davanagere, Koppal, Belagavi, Udupi-Chikkamagaluru, and Mysuru constituencies.

Former chief minister DV Sadananda Gowda did not mince words. He said he would free the BJP from the clutches of the Yediyurappa clan after the Lok Sabha elections and “purify the party”.

Gowda replaced his political mentor Yediyurappa as the chief minister after the latter had to resign in 2011 following an illegal mining case. He was acquitted in 2016.

South First can confirm that the discontent has percolated deep in the BJP’s Karnataka unit.

“A political party is like the sea. Even if a whale goes missing or dies, it barely affects the sea. Likewise, the BJP is the sea and BS Yediyurappa and his family are whales in the sea,” a former minister said on the condition of anonymity since the party has banned its leaders from making such statements in public.

Hatred towards Yediyurappa’s alleged one-upmanship was evident in his words.

“The party is no more dependent on one family or person. Leaders like BS Yediyurappa, Uma Bharathi, and a few others had left the party and floated their outfits. What was the result,” he asked.

Protesting the ill-treatment meted out to him by the party’s high command, Yediyurappa quit the BJP and floated the Karnataka Janata Paksha. In 2014, he merged his party with the BJP.

Related: Vijayendra will resign as BJP chief after LS polls, says Eshwarappa

Holding their horses

“After his new party failed to yield the expected results, he returned to the BJP. Differences will be there in every party. Likewise, there are minor differences in our party as well, especially regarding a particular family,” he said.

The former minister expressed confidence that the high command would take care of the issue after the elections. “The party has already addressed dissent in Davanagere, Koppal, and other seats,” he further stated.

The BJP leader said the dissent would not affect the party. “The opposition to Yediyurappa and his family will not affect the party’s prospects as the goal is to make Narendra Modi the prime minister for the third successive term,” he added.

A BJP MLA, too, said the issue would be sorted out after the elections. “Everyone knows that Yediyurappa and his family are under attack ever since the list of candidates was announced. The party has nominated Yediyurappa loyalists as candidates by sidelining a section of leaders,” he said, requesting anonymity.

“KS Eshwarappa, Sadananada Gowda, CT Ravi, and other leaders are dismayed over the former chief minister’s politics. The party cadre, too, is unhappy. But the issue is likely to be addressed only after the Parliament elections,” he said.

The lawmaker hinted that most leaders were holding their horses. “These issues would barely impact the party as the elections are being held to elect the prime minister, not the chief minister,” he said, adding that raising the issue in public now would amount to providing ammo to the rivals.

Also Read: Mining baron Gali Janardhana Reddy and his tryst with BJP

Modi first, dissent later

A senior leader and close associate of Yediyurappa told South First that the disgruntled leaders would not work against Modi.

He explained that dissent over ticket distribution and selection of candidates was natural in all political parties

“Eshwarappa and Sadananda Gowda have expressed their opinions. The party leadership is keeping a tab on all the developments. The high command will resolve the dissent before the elections. BJP leaders and party workers’ sole aim is to make Modi the prime minister for the third successive term,” he said.

“Though the disgruntled leaders have expressed their concerns, they have also made it clear that they will work in favour of Modi in the elections,” he added.

A BJP office-bearer further explained: “Lok Sabha elections are fought on national issues and not on state issues. There are minor differences in the party, which can be seen in all the political parties.”

“These differences will be addressed by the central leadership. It is common that whenever a prominent leader or his family fails to get opportunities to contest the elections they will vent their anger against the party and its leaders. The BJP and JD(S) will sweep the elections to record a hat-trick win,” he said.

Related: BJP red-faced as Eshwarappa skips PM Modi’s Shivamogga rally

Focus on Centre

A political observer, too, said dissent would have no impact since the party’s aim is to make Modi the prime minister again.

“Internal differences are nothing new in the BJP. It was witnessed in last year’s Assembly polls, which hampered the party’s prospects,” Lokniti Network’s national coordinator and political analyst Sandeep Shastri told South First.

“But one has to remember that this is Lok Sabha polls, not the state Assembly polls. The BJP would be hoping that Parliament elections would set aside all differences,” he hastened to add.

“The BJP’s focus, adding 28 seats to the kitty (from Karnataka) and winning over 400 Parliament seats, would put all these issues on the back burner. The party is fighting to elect Narendra Modi as its leader,” he said.

“It is true that senior leaders like Eshwarappa, and Sadananda Gowda have voiced their dissent. There are also differences between the alliance partners, the BJP and JD(S),” he further stated.

“The BJP’s challenge is to iron out the differences and focus on the central leadership instead of local leadership. If the local leadership issue is escalated then it might affect the party’s poll prospects,” Shastri opined.

(Edited by Majnu Babu).