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BJP Picks for Rajya Sabha Polls in Karnataka a Surprise for Many, Snub for Yediyurappa

Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa. (PTI Photo).

Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa. (PTI Photo).

Eeranna Kadadi and Ashok Gasti didn’t figure in the shortlist of Rajya Sabha candidates the BJP’s state unit had sent to the central leadership.

Bengaluru: Not Prabhakar Kore, not Ramesh Katti, not Prakash Shetty. Not even the two BJP Karnataka vice-presidents Nirmal Surana and Prof M Nagaraj.

When the list of two candidates that the BJP nominated for the Rajya Sabha elections finally came out, the names took even the state unit of the party by surprise for they did not figure in the final shortlist it had forwarded. They weren't even considered during discussions of the core committee ahead of the shortlist. They were, in effect, just what they were meant to be. A surprise. And a snub.

With one day to go for filing of nominations for the Rajya Sabha elections, the BJP’s central unit on Monday announced the names of Eeranna Kadadi and Ashok Gasti. Quick calls to the office confirmed that they were both district level party leaders. Kadadi was, at one point, zilla panchayat head of Belagavi district in the Mumba-Karnataka region, say party sources, while Gasti was an organisation general secretary for Raichur district in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region.

One a Lingayat, the other an OBC.

"What we hear is, these two names were not part of the state recommendation. But it is a great moment for the party. Grassroot level worker has been identified. This is an extraordinary example. I welcome and appreciate the decision. This is going to change the way things are," said deputy chief minister CN Ashwathnarayan.

However, the party has been battling a rebellion from within for the last few months. Eight-time MLA Umesh Katti had made it clear that he was upset at being sidelined when it came to cabinet formation. He is not yet a minister, though the cabinet has been expanded twice. He felt perhaps his brother Ramesh will at least make it to the Rajya Sabha. But the party's 'high command' has decided not to bow to his wishes. In fact, in a direct snub, another leader from the same Belagavi district he hails from, has been considered.

Karnataka has four seats in the Rajya Sabha that fall vacant this month, and elections, if necessary, would be held on June 19. But with the Congress fielding one candidate -- Mallikarjuna Kharge -- and supporting the JDS candidature of HD Deve Gowda, and the BJP fielding only two candidates, an election may not be necessary.

So it is inevitable that this is one election where the candidates chosen will naturally get elected. Considering the BJP was on such sure footing, there were many aspirants. And now, of course, there will be many disappointments. But among the most disappointed will probably be Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa himself. He held a core committee meeting to shortlist candidates, hoping that the state unit's recommendations would be considered. However, the list doesn’t even seem to have been given a second look by the central unit.

So was he consulted before the list was announced? It doesn't seem so. Yediyurappa, who usually reacts to decisions or announcements from the party's central unit, neither spoke to media nor made any comment on social media about the national leadership's choice.

"It came as a big shock to the CM too," said a source in the Chief Minister’s Office, adding that the CMO got information on the choice only at 11:30 am on Monday. If the CM and the core committee's suggestions were going to be thrown right out, what was the point of asking them to hold a meeting and come out with a list of probables, the source wondered.

There had already been feelers that the first three names suggested from the state unit were going to be rejected forthright. The CM was, in fact, asked to suggest other names and he put forth the name of his political secretary Shankaragouda Patil too, says the source.

Knowing the vagaries of the central leadership, it was thought that Patil and one of the two vice-presidents may make it to the Rajya Sabha. However, these names too got rejected.

Interestingly, Kadadi had apparently approached the CM a few days back, asking that he be given chairmanship of any state-run board or corporation, considering his contribution to the party. It was still under consideration. Perhaps, he too did not think he would be considered for the Upper House of Parliament.

But there is always a general tendency to discourage "those kinds of entrepreneurs, businessmen (such as Kore, Shetty, etc)”, said a party insider when asked about what prompted the choice. "Those who are not party workers… It is possible that the top brass knew that the core committee was under pressure. The party may have put it right,” he told News18.

So the two vice-presidents whose names were suggested, were they not loyal workers for decades?

"Yeah, they could have chosen them. But maybe they didn't know. Or maybe they deliberately wanted someone lesser-known," the insider said.

One of the takeaways from this choice of the unknown names -- many in the party wonder who in the BJP high command even knew of Kadadi and Gasti -- is that the diktat of the party's national organising general secretary BL Santhosh has prevailed.

Both Kadadi and Gasti are close to him and Santhosh had elevated them with high responsibilities within the party over the years.

What remains to be seen is whether this will set off a game of one-upmanship --and perhaps rebellion too -- within the state unit.