Bengaluru: It has been almost one-and-a-half months since BS Yediyurappa returned as the chief minister of Karnataka. After a 27-day-long “one-man show”, Yediyurappa formed a Cabinet with 17 ministers, keeping the remaining 16 berths vacant. And the vigilant party high command in New Delhi wasted no time in imposing three deputy chief ministers on the 76-year-old party veteran, complicating the already complex power structure in the state.
Even though Yediyurappa is the chief minister, unlike his previous terms, there is not much activity at his private house in Bengaluru. Only a few party leaders and MLAs are flocking to his house, indicating a subtle change in the balance of power in Karnataka BJP. His own close circles whisper that the chief minister’s hands are tied and he is not in a position to dole out big favours and ministerial berths to anyone.
Till the 2018 assembly elections, Yediyurappa was the undisputed leader of the BJP in Karnataka. To his credit, he was the first to bring the BJP to power in a southern state in 2008. His word was the law and he was almost independent till he was forced to quit in a mining scam in July 2011.
Under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s highly centralised system, Yediyurappa seems to have lost most of his autonomy and powers. After the first round of Cabinet formation, his wings have been clipped and the RSS is exercising its authority, claim his close confidantes.
“He is 76. Despite his age, the high command has made an exemption for him. But they want to groom other leaders, putting an end to family rule. They are also worried about the image of the government. The high command does not want a repeat of 2008-13 episodes. If Yediyurappa understands this, he is safe. Otherwise, he may have to vacate for someone younger in the days to come,” said a senior BJP leader.
BL Santhosh, one of the main rivals of Yediyurappa, is now an all-powerful general secretary (organisation) of the BJP in New Delhi and it has further eroded the BJP stalwart’s clout within the party, admit some insiders.
A gritty Yediyurappa successfully toppled the JDS-Congress coalition government after half-a-dozen attempts, even though the methods adopted by him are questionable.
The party, however, feels he should take everyone along and put the BJP above all other interests. This does not seem to have gone down well with Yediyurappa. Left with no other choices before him, he is pulling along, claim party sources.
Even today, Yediyurappa is the tallest and most powerful Lingayat leader who commands the loyalty of his caste that is the backbone of BJP in Karnataka. Keeping his age and temperament in mind, the high command is now grooming other leaders from the same community. In the recent Lok Sabha elections, it has expanded the base to all other parts of Karnataka and feels that other dominant castes such as Vokkaligas and SCs are also with them.
“In a hypothetical case, even if half of the Lingayats go with Yediyurappa if there is a regime change, the BJP can still manage with the support of other castes. It may be a setback for him personally but it’s a good development for the party” said an RSS leader.
The 17 disqualified JDS and Congress MLAs who helped Yediyurappa realise his dream are now breathing down his neck, demanding that some of them be made ministers. Since the matter is before the Supreme Court, Yediyurappa can buy some more time. Once decided, he will be under tremendous pressure to take a call on their future.
Also, the next round of Cabinet expansion will decide the future course. If he manages to accommodate his loyalists, Yediyurappa can claim victory. Otherwise, he will continue to be a chief minister without powers. And that is not his style of functioning.