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Long Yeddy wait ends

Bangalore, Jan. 2: Former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa today decided to merge his breakaway outfit with the BJP, in a long-awaited homecoming that would end a rivalry that began with his exit from the party 13 months ago.

The Lingayat strongman, who had been forced to step down as chief minister in 2011 following allegations of corruption, told reporters the merger would officially happen “in the due course”.

“We have agreed on an unconditional merger with the BJP where we all originally come from,” a beaming Yeddyurappa, who had broken away to float his Karnataka Janata Party (KJP), said after a meeting with senior BJP leaders.

Yeddyurappa would take four of the KJP’s six MLAs with him to the BJP. Two MLAs have decided to remain unattached members.

State BJP chief Prahlad Joshi, national general secretary Ananth Kumar and senior leader K.S. Eshwarappa met Yeddyurappa at a city hotel late this evening to formally invite him back to the BJP, which he had quit in November 2012. “There is absolute unanimity in bringing back Yeddyurappa,” Joshi said.

He said the merger would benefit the BJP by preventing a division in votes that had hurt the party in the May 2013 Assembly elections. “The BJP and the KJP both failed to gain by dividing votes. We would once again be a force in the state,” said Joshi, who did much of the groundwork to bring back Yeddyurappa, credited with leading the BJP to its first government in the south.

In the May elections, the KJP had won only six seats and polled 10 per cent of the votes, but had cut into the BJP’s share in areas where the Lingayat community accounts for a sizeable chunk of the electorate.

The BJP and the Janata Dal (Secular) ended with 40 seats each, but the JD(S) was until now the main Opposition because of its better vote share. This would change now with the four KJP MLAs joining the BJP.

Yeddyurappa was told to quit as chief minister in July 2011 by the BJP’s central leadership following his indictment in a lokayukta report on illegal mining and land scam allegations. He was arrested in October 2011 on land scam charges and sent to judicial remand for 24 days before being released on bail.

It was this taint that delayed his re-entry into the BJP, which has been attacking the Congress on graft-related issues. But Congress chief minister P.C. Siddaramaiah’s decision to induct two tainted MLAs into his cabinet probably eased the way for Yeddyurappa, whose return was being opposed by several BJP leaders, especially Ananth Kumar.

That Kumar was part of the delegation that invited Yeddyurappa back indicates the patch-up is complete.

Party sources said Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, the BJP’s mascot for 2014, had taken a lot of initiative to get his old friend back in time for the Lok Sabha polls.

The sources said the merger would be formalised at a rally to be addressed by Modi in one of the northern districts where the Lingayats hold sway.