Assertive Yediyurappa vs fuming BJP: BSY statement on son’s candidature shifts equations

The former Karnataka chief minister and Lingayat strongman announced his retirement from electoral politics and named is son the next candidate from his home turf.

ByAnusha Ravi Sood

Published Jul 23, 2022 | 11:44 AMUpdatedJul 28, 2022 | 3:56 PM

Assertive Yediyurappa vs fuming BJP: BSY statement on son’s candidature shifts equations

“Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t independently decide he wanted to contest from Varanasi. It was the party’s decision. Such individual declaration of candidature by BS Yediyurappa doesn’t send the right message,” a senior BJP central functionary told South First.

The leader was reacting to Yediyurappa’s announcement on Friday, 22 July, that his son BY Vijayendra would contest from his seat of Shikaripura.

“Since I am vacating the seat and won’t be contesting, BY Vijayendra will contest from Shikaripura,” he told reporters, breaking from the BJP’s convention on candidate announcements.

It wasn’t an impromptu decision. Sources close to Yediyurappa told South First that Vijayendra — who was in Bengaluru till Thursday — was called to Shikaripura overnight for the announcement.

It has left the BJP fuming, since it has put the party in a spot.

Former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa with his son and BJP Karnataka Vice President BY Vijayendra. File photo. (Supplied)

Former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa with his son and BJP Karnataka Vice President BY Vijayendra. File photo. (Supplied)

Yediyurappa’s timing could not have been better. His assertive announcement came on the day Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai left for New Delhi to welcome India’s newly elected President Droupadi Murmu.

There is little doubt that Yediyurappa and his announcement will be the talking point in the BJP’s Karnataka-focused circles.

The assertion also comes at a time those in the BJP and outside have been pointing to deliberate acts of sidelining of the Lingayat leader.

BJP on the defensive

A decade ago, Yediyurappa would have been the last word on Karnataka for the BJP. After all, it was under his leadership that the party came to power for the first time in a southern state.

Ever since he broke away from the party and then returned, things haven’t been the same. Neither is the party same under the leadership of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah: It’s the central leadership that calls the shots.

For the BJP’s central leadership — which has shifted to a “high-command” mode akin to the Congress — that is used to getting its way, Yediyurappa’s assertion has come as a rude shock.

“It is not like the party would have denied Vijayendra a ticket. Yediyurappa should have limited his announcement to his retirement. He could have simply announced that the party would field a suitable candidate in Shikaripura. That would have been the ideal way to go,” the aforementioned BJP functionary said.

Yediyurappa didn’t seem to want to run the risk. In the run-up to the 2018 Assembly election, he propped up Vijayendra — who was looking to make an electoral debut — to contest from the Varuna constituency, a seat considered a bastion of the Congress.

The BJP high command poured cold water on Yediyurappa’s launch plans for his son. The party insisted that Vijayendra work for it first.

The BJP also convinced Yediyurappa that he was already being projected as the chief-ministerial candidate, and that his son getting a ticket might attract allegations of nepotism — usually a stick that the BJP uses to beat the Congress.

Since then, Vijayendra — now the vice-president of the Karnataka BJP — has managed to win two high-profile bypolls as election in-charge of the party.

After the Varuna setback, Yediyurappa seems to have decided to brazen it out for Shikaripura for his son.

“This public announcement is a display of his personality. That assertive personality doesn’t work in the BJP today. He doesn’t seem to have understood that the party doesn’t reward this,” the BJP functionary said.

For Yediyurappa and VIjayendra, however, this is a do-or-die situation.

BSY brazens it out

While announcing that Vijayendra would contest the upcoming Assembly elections from Shikaripura, Yediyurappa made no mention of him contesting on a BJP ticket. The Lingayat strongman, who has a mass following in Karnataka, thus left the ball in the BJP’s court.

Ever since he was forced to step down from the chief minister’s post in 2021, Yediyurappa has maintained a compliant, if not amenable, demeanour.

His elder son BY Raghavendra is already a Lok Sabha member from Shivamogga. Yediyurappa himself has been elected eight times from the Shikaripura constituency in Shivamogga.

“This is an attempt to upstage the high command,” a BJP leader in Karnataka opined.

“Sometimes, you have to lose a battle to win the war,” the leader added when asked if the BJP central leadership would accommodate Yediyurappa’s rather “take it or leave it” indirect demand.

Ever since a teary-eyed Yediyurappa announced his exit as chief minister, the BJP has stonewalled his attempts to assert himself.

A statewide tour he wanted to undertake was converted into a party program divided between different leaders. His attempts to get an MLC ticket for Vijayendra were thwarted at the last moment, his photos went missing from campaign material for the MLC elections, and almost all the appointments he made to boards and corporations were dissolved earlier last week.

On his part, Yediyurappa displayed his disappointment by giving the BJP state executive meeting in December last year a miss, and refusing to campaign for bypolls earlier this year until requested to do so.

A section of BJP leaders in Karnataka has been attempting to prove a point: that the party can win elections without Yediyurappa being its face.

Yediyurappa wields great influence in the politically influential Lingayat community: a loyal vote bank of the BJP.

“There was an attempt to breach caste barriers and appeal to voters on the common stage of Hindutva, but that has failed in other states. We need his support to win elections. That is the larger cause,” the aforementioned BJP leader said.