Yeddyurappa: Creator and destroyer of Karnataka BJP
From being the BJP's lone MLA in Karnataka 25 years ago to BJP's first CM in the entire South, BS Yeddyurappa has seen it all.
From being the BJP's lone MLA in the state Assembly 25 years ago to BJP's first chief minister in the entire South, BS Yeddyurappa has seen it all. This powerful public orator and a political organiser had single-handedly built the saffron party in Karnataka over the past 30 years. It was not a small achievement in a state, which was completely opposed to the right wing politics till the mid 1990s.
Originally from Bookanakere, a small village in KR Pet taluk of Mandya district and the son of a poor farmer, Yeddyurappa lost his mother when he was a child. He still remembers that trauma. He even sold lemons at village markets for a living.
He came in contact with the RSS in his 20s and was sent to Shikaripura in Shimoga district to work as a volunteer. He quit RSS to join a rice mill as a clerk. He later married the daughter of the same rice mill owner and he never looked back after that. He became Shikaripura municipality president on a Jan Sangh ticket in 1972 and spent 18 months in jail during the Emergency (between 1975 June - 1977 January).
He was one of the first BJP MLAs in the entire South. The BJP won 18 seats in the 1983 Karnataka Assembly polls and Yeddyurappa was one of the lucky candidates.
His party supported the Janata Party government headed by the late Ramakrishna Hegde. That government fell 18 months later and only two BJP MLAs managed to return to the Assembly in the 1985 polls. The other MLA defected to Janata Party and Yeddyurappa became BJP's lone MLA in the state.
But, it did not deter him from taking up the issues concerning farmers and villagers. He was the most vocal critic of the Ram Krishna Hegde government during late 1980s.
Yeddyurappa-led BJP won four Assembly seats in the 1989 polls while the Congress swept the polls with 181 seats. Even though BJP was not the official opposition party, Yeddyurappa took on the Congress government led by three successive chief ministers Veerendra Patil, S Bangarappa and M Veerappa Moily. He led several farmers movements to highlight their plight under the Congress rule. It made him a big leader in the state. Under him, BJP won four Lok Sabha seats in the 1991 General Elections opening its account in the South for the first time.
The Ram Janmabhumi movement also helped the BJP to increase its vote share in Karnataka. He got his first big break in 1994, when Yeddyurappa-led BJP increased its tally in the state assembly from just four to 44 in the polls. Naturally he became leader of the opposition. He lost that post three years later. He proved his worth once again when BJP won 13 Lok Sabha seats from Karnataka in the 1998 general elections.
The lowest point of his political career was 1999. SM Krishna-led Congress swept the polls and Yeddyurappa lost even his own Assembly seat to a relatively unknown Congress candidate. His arch rival in the party Ananth Kumar was a rising star in the state BJP and Yeddyurappa was forced to wait for his chance.
In the 2004 assembly polls, Yeddyurappa-led BJP became the single largest party with 79 seats. But, Congress with 64 seats and JDS with 58 seats came together to form a coalition government, that lasted for just 20 months.
He had to wait till 2006 to occupy the coveted seats on the treasury benches. First as Deputy Chief Minister in a JDS-BJP coalition government and 20 months later as Chief Minister for just seven days before he was toppled by the scheming Gowdas. Yeddyurappa described it as a betrayal and swore revenge.
Riding on a sympathy wave, Yeddyurappa led BJP to a spectacular victory in the 2008 Assembly polls. It was the highest point both for him and the party. The mission was accomplished. The first ever BJP government came to power in the South.
Things started deteriorating a year after he took charge. Mining scams to land scams became a regular feature in his government. Never ending internal rebellions also spoiled his reputation. After a huge public drama, he finally quit as chief minister in July 2011.
After spending over 40 years in the right wing party, Yeddyurappa is now on his own with a plan to fight the next Assembly polls under his Karnataka Janatha Party (KJP) symbol. The party he built is now in a shambles.
The big question is - Will he be able to decimate the BJP and will he win enough seats to remain relevant in the state politics? For the BJP in Karnataka, he is both the creator and destroyer. Beyond him, there is nothing much for it.