Bengaluru: BJP's chief ministerial face B S Yeddyurappa and his disciple-turned-foe K S Eshwarappa are once again at each other’s throat after a brief ceasefire brokered by the party high command a few months ago collapsed.
Eshwarappa, who is a protege of Yeddyurappa, is also from Shimoga district like his one-time mentor Yeddyurappa. He openly admits that Yeddyurappa first made him MLA from Shimoga city in 1989 and later BJP Karnataka chief in the early 1990s.
Eshwarappa was a powerful minister in the BJP government and was party's state chief twice. He is currently the leader of the opposition in the upper house of the state legislature.
The one-time "guru-shishya" started drifting apart after Yeddyurappa resigned as CM in mid-2011. Eshwarappa lost the 2013 Assembly polls to the Congress. He was one of the top leaders of the party who was uncomfortable with the return of Yeddyurappa to BJP ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
After Yeddyurappa was once again made state BJP chief and the CM face in 2016, Eshwarappa started feeling more insecure and floated a political forum for the Dalits and Backward Classes called ‘Rayanna Brigade’. Songolli Rayanna, a freedom fighter from Kuruba caste, is a part of Karnataka's folklore and Eshwarappa cleverly named it to boast his caste identity and take on Yeddyurappa who is considered an undisputed leader of the Lingayats.
"Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is also a Kuruba. He has his own AHINDA movement for the Minorities, Backward Classes, and Dalits. I founded the brigade to woo Dalits and Backward classes to the BJP. Not to fight with Yeddyurappa. The BJP must understand this" Eshwarappa had told News18 a few months ago.
After he held several meetings of the brigade across the state, party high command warned him and he abruptly stopped its activities.
But his supporters were miffed with this and decided to keep it alive. Eshwarappa who is seeking MLA ticket from Shimoga city is being given the cold shoulder by Yeddyurappa. He has told Eshwarappa that party high command will decide the tickets and he can't guarantee him one.
Eshwarappa feels that it is a clever ploy by Yeddyurappa to deny him a ticket on the basis that he is currently an MLC.
According to his close aides, the OBC leader from BJP is eyeing the CM post in case Yeddyurappa has to go in future.
On Thursday night, his ‘Rayanna Brigade’ leaders met Karnataka BJP in charge Muralidhara Rao demanding 21 tickets for Eshwarappa supporters, including Eshwarappa from Shimoga city. According to those who were present in the meeting, some of them even shouted at the BJP in charge telling him that Eshwarappa is a big OBC leader and ignoring him could cost the party dearly in the elections.
A shocked Rao promised to take it up with the high command they claim.
When News18 contacted Yeddyurappa, he angrily said that there was no ‘Rayanna Brigade’ and Eshwarappa had dissolved it a few months ago. “If you have the list of his candidates, please give it to me. I will see,” he said.
Eshwarappa's absence at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's election rally in Mysore last week had led to a lot of speculations over his next move.