Karnataka polls: After snubbing BS Yeddyurappa and irking his supporters, BJP must swiftly set house in order

TS Sudhir
BJP’s chief ministerial candidate and former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa told a newspaper that BJP party presid9ent Amit Shah had given tickets to the Reddy brothers, media reports said.

Update: Since the publishing of this article, the BJP appointed BS Yeddyurappa's son Vijayendra as Yuva Morcha general secretary.

BS Yeddyurappa's choice of words said it all. He let the world know that a common man (read as ordinary party worker) and not his son BY Vijayendra will contest from Varuna. His body language and sulk completed the picture. To say Yeddyurappa was unhappy with the decision would be an understatement. It was obvious he felt gutted. For the record though, the man who would be chief minister if the BJP came to power, said he is not upset at all.

Outside, his supporters articulated what Yeddyurappa could not possibly say openly. They blamed the RSS man in charge of Karnataka BL Santosh, Union minister Ananth Kumar and BJP president Amit Shah for the last-minute snub. Yeddyurappa knew this would happen which is why from the dais at Nanjungud, he asked the cadre not to blame RSS or BJP leaders for the decision.

The advice fell on deaf ears. The BJP activists gave vent to their ire by vandalising party furniture and shouting slogans against the high command. These were hardly the scenes the BJP would have liked Karnataka to see three weeks before D-day on 12 May. Their veneer of a disciplined force and a united party under Yeddyurappa was being stripped away. The question that was being asked was if Yeddyurappa cannot get a candidate of his choice, what clout does he enjoy within the party?

The party high command possibly knew the reaction which is why he was made to do the dirty job of making it appear to be his own decision. It was obvious it was a lie. A Twitter account, presumably belonging to Vijayendra, tweeted expressing support to the party's decision, asking the cadre to maintain peace.

What changed within the BJP? After all, even before Dr Yathindra, chief minister Siddaramaiah's son was officially announced as the Congress candidate from Varuna, Vijayendra had started campaigning in Varuna. He had even taken up a house on rent for himself to set up base in the constituency. During his campaign, Siddaramaiah even attacked Vijayendra, making it obvious that the father was not taking his political rival's son lightly.

Sources within the party suggest that there was resentment at the possibility of the Yeddyurappa parivar emerging as a power centre within the Karnataka BJP. Given that it is quite possible that BY Raghavendra, Yeddyurappa's elder son, will contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Shimoga, the feeling gained ground that one family was getting a larger share of the power pie.

Yeddyurappa's close associate and Udipi MP Shobha Karandlaje too would have been interested in being fielded from Yeshwanthpur but it did not happen. The rule that no MP except Yeddyurappa will contest was however, relaxed for B Sriramulu. The BJP has now fielded actor Jaggesh from Yeshwanthpur.

The charge of dynasty politics is a rather strange argument with which to beat Yeddyurappa, given the manner in which the tainted Reddy family has been accommodated in Bellary. Seven family members and associates of Janardhana Reddy have been fielded in this election by the BJP. Even though Amit Shah said the BJP had nothing to do with Janardhana Reddy, his nephew Lallesh Reddy, a realtor also got a ticket for a Bengaluru seat.

What is the message that the BJP sends out with this decision? That Yeddyurappa is fighting this election with his hands tied. That he does not have the kind of clout within the BJP that Siddaramaiah has within the Congress. Siddaramaiah got his way with changing his constituency from Varuna to Chamundeshwari, getting Yathindra the Varuna nomination and then getting a second constituency in Badami to contest for himself. Yeddyurappa in contrast, has no elbow room.

This is also reflected in the manner in which the BJP and the Congress have played this campaign. The BJP high command has decided the narrative, focussing on the Hindu-Muslim divide and nationalism while Siddaramaiah has championed the cause of the Kannadiga regional identity to blunt the Hindi and Hindutva card. The message going out is that a Kannadiga is calling the shots in the Congress, while the tallest Kannadiga leader in the BJP is being humiliated.

There is little doubt that Yeddyurappa is the biggest vote-catcher the Karnataka BJP has. The party went out of its way to project him as its chief ministerial candidate, even relaxing the unofficial age limit for retirement at 75. Which is why to snub him in this manner makes little political sense.

In fact, the question being asked is if this is the respect being shown to Yeddyurappa before the elections, what will be his fate if and when he delivers the state to the BJP?

The decision is also strange because the BJP is not a force to reckon with in the Old Mysuru region. That Yeddyurappa was willing to risk his son in a fierce contest in the chief minister's backyard, had rejuvenated the cadre in Varuna and the BJP was seen as putting up a fight. Vijayendra's presence would have had a positive influence for the party in adjoining constituencies as well.

The BJP has reason to worry about the impact its decision in Varuna could have across Karnataka. In Varuna, an emotional BJP cadre threatened to support the JD(S) in protest against the decision. The BJP leadership has the task of putting its house in order. And fast.

Also See: Karnataka polls: BS Yeddyurappa says his son BY Vijayendra won't contest from Varuna, announcement triggers protests

Rajnath Singh says Congress govt adopting 'Kerala model' of political violence in poll-bound Karnataka

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