“Life has been an Agni Pareeksha (trial by fire) for me," said BS Yediyurappa in an emotional speech after the announcement of his resignation as Karnataka Chief Minister on Monday. Yediyurappa has had a chequered career, dotted with impressive highs and embarrassing controversies. A former state government clerk, Yediyurappa’s political career began in Shikaripura as the Purasabha president, and he was first elected to the Legislative Assembly from Shikaripura in 1983 and went on to win eight times from there. He secured seven consecutive victories from the constituency, losing only one election in 1999.
Here is a look at the four-time CM’s beginnings, and his career’s highs and lows:
From Being Clerk to Owning a Hardware Store; Not Enough for Young Yediyurappa
BS Yediyurappa was born on February 27, 1943, in Mandya’s Boonankere village, to father Siddalingappa and mother Puttathayamma. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in arts and went on to work as a clerk in the state government’s Department of Social Welfare.
Later, Yediyurappa travelled to Shikaripura after quitting his job. He got a position as a clerk at Veerabhadra Shastri’s Rice Mill, where he met the mill owner’s daughter, Mythra Devi, and fell in love with her. After marrying Mythra Devi, he built a hardware store, but this was not enough for a young Yediyurappa.
Instantly captivated by the RSS, he rose through the ranks to become a karyakartha. Later, he was named the Sangh’s Shivamogga District Chief. Yediyurappa first entered politics in 1973, when he was elected to the Shikaripura Municipal Council as a councillor. In 1977, he was re-elected as a councillor.
Fearless Champion of Agricultural Workers’ Rights
In the late 1970s, Yediyurappa rose to prominence after championing the cause of landless agricultural workers in the Shivamogga area. He had stopped the state Forest Department from planting eucalyptus trees on the grounds allocated to these agricultural labourers as part of the “Land to the Tiller" scheme at the time.
He also championed the cause of enslaved workers. He led a group of 1,700 bonded labourers to the Shivamogga Deputy Commissioner’s office, demanding that they be released and rehabilitated immediately.
Siddaramaiah and Yediyurappa Ran for First Time in Same Year
He joined the BJP in 1980, and in 1983, the same year that Siddaramaiah ran for the first time in the Assembly elections, he ran for Shikaripura and won, becoming an MLA.
Between 1985 through 1988, he was appointed by the BJP as the Shivamogga District President. In 1985, he was re-elected to the Assembly.
Riding a Bicycle in the Drought
In August 1987, Yediyurappa won the people’s unwavering support as he rode his bicycle across Shivamogga district to assess the devastating drought that had struck the region. Following that, Yediyurappa urged the government to begin drought relief efforts.
In 1988, he was elected as the BJP’s state president. In 1989 and 1994, he was elected to the Assembly. In 2000, Yediyurappa was elected to the Legislative Council, where he served until 2004.
Doubts About BJP?
Yediyurappa had pondered joining the JD(S) when he thought his prospects in the BJP were too poor, given his long tenure as an MLC and the BJP’s refusal to grant him the CM job.
However, when he was handed a ticket to run in the 2004 Assembly elections and touted as the BJP’s CM face, this changed.
In 2004, the BJP was the single-largest party, receiving 79 votes. The Congress received 64 seats, while the JD(S) received 58. Yediyurappa was then elected as the Assembly’s leader of the opposition.
Although the Congress and JD(S) had first formed a coalition government, the JD(S) later dropped out and joined forces with the BJP.
2007’s Broken Power Arrangement
In 2006, Yediyurappa was the Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister. He was sworn in as the state’s Chief Minister in 2007 as part of a power-sharing deal between the JD(S) and the BJP. This lasted barely seven days, as Kumaraswamy refused to relinquish his post as Chief Minister, and the JD(S) withdrew from the coalition.
Unlawful Mining Scheme and Jail Term
After the BJP emerged as the single largest party in 2008, Yediyurappa was re-elected Chief Minister. His fate was sealed, however, when then-Tourist Minister Janardhana Reddy and his brothers became embroiled in an unlawful mining scheme. Yediyurappa was forced to resign and publicly cried over the loss of his position.
Although the unlawful mining scheme cost him his job as Chief Minister, it was the illegal de-notification case that landed him in jail after he left office. In reality, he was Karnataka’s first chief minister to be imprisoned for breaching the law.
He then resigned from the BJP’s primary membership as a result of this. He founded the Karnataka Janata Paksha as an MLA in 2012 before rejoining the party ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
After the BJP’s humiliating defeat in 2013, Yediyurappa returned to state politics with fresh vigour. By emerging as the single largest party in the last elections, Yediyurappa demonstrated that his popularity had not waned across the state.
Exit Amid Long-winded Corruption Allegations, Critique on Covid Response
The buzz about his exit had been going on in the political corridors of Karnataka for months and earlier this month, the debate on leadership change was once again revived by Tourism Minister CP Yogeshwar.
Soon after, dissident BJP legislator Basanagouda Patil Yatnal launched a fresh attack against the chief minister and accused the state government of indulging in unbridled corruption and for its poor management of the Covid-19 crisis. The BJP leader said the party high command would take a decision soon to change the leadership in Karnataka. “It will happen soon. I am not a soothsayer,” he said.
Yatnal also accused BSY’s son and state BJP vice-president, BY Vijayendra, of negotiating “deals”, receiving favours from various projects and interfering in the affairs of the state government. The 78-year-old’s standing took further hit after his name surfaced in the land denotification scam and voices of corruption and impropriety against him and his family grew louder. A special court in Bengaluru dismissed a report filed by the Lokayukta police seeking the closure of over a 15-year-old investigation against Yediyurappa in a land denotification case.
‘Will Stay in Politics’
“I will not leave Karnataka. I will work to bring party to power in next election," the leader said in the announcement made today. It remains to see what will happen in the future for Yediyurappa; not having been the first time leader has faced a stone in the road.