New Beginnings

The BJP’s plans for a post-Yediyurappa future in Karnataka

BS Yediyurappa meets Lingayat pontiffs at his residence in July this year. Yediyurappa consolidated his power in the state through courting and empowering caste pontiffs and their seminaries. PTI
29 September, 2021

On 26 July, BS Yediyurappa—often referred to as BSY—stepped down as Karnataka’s chief minister, but continued to occupy “Cauvery,” the chief minister’s official residence. There are no signs of him giving it up. Basavaraj Bommai, the new chief minister, has already got himself allocated another bungalow in the vicinity, which was earlier in the possession of a deputy chief minister. This makes Bommai look like BSY’s deputy, which is perhaps the message that BSY intends to send out.

Before Bommai made alternate housing arrangements for himself, on 7 August, he passed an order bestowing the status and perks of a cabinet minister to BSY. This exceptional order was seemingly passed to allow BSY to retain the bungalow. However, when the order made headlines, BSY was forced to decline the new status. Nonetheless, the bungalow was allotted to another senior cabinet minister, so that BSY could continue to stay there as his privileged guest—essentially a non-paying tenant.

There is good reason for the perks BSY continues to enjoy. For the last couple of decades, he has been instrumental to the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka. But, given the lack of a neat overlap between the Hindutva ideology and BSY’s politics, his relationship with the national leadership of the BJP was always uneasy. While BSY’s departure can create a vacuum, it is also an opportunity for the BJP to create a new leadership in Karnataka that is more consistent with its national goals.

In his farewell speech, BSY repeatedly referred to the physical energy he had expended going round the state like a “peripatetic madman” to build the party. He reminded his audience that there was a time in the past when the BJP found it difficult to assemble even fifty people for its meetings in Karnataka. He pointed out that even when stalwarts such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi arrived, they found it difficult to assemble people. He had slogged to get the crowds to swell over the decades. From then to now, he claimed, the party had been shaped by his own hand.