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Infight ache for Yediyurappa

Double-trouble for Karnataka chief minister
B.S. Yediyurappa
B.S. Yediyurappa

K.M. Rakesh   |   Bangalore   |   Published 02.10.19, 10:30 PM

Old differences seem to have resurfaced in the ruling BJP in Karnataka after a change in state leadership effected with the apparent aim of reigning in chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa.

While Yediyurappa himself has not been given a free hand to run things in the state, his sudden replacement as the Karnataka BJP president has created more problems than answers.


From being the unquestionable leader as far as Karnataka is concerned, Yediyurappa is currently faced with double-trouble in handling new state unit president Nalin Kumar Kateel and BJP national organising secretary B.L. Santosh.

The installation of Kateel, at the behest of Santosh who reports to BJP national president Amit Shah, has caused much heartburn among those who back Yediyurappa.

The general impression in BJP circles is that from being a “Lingayat strongman”, Yediyurappa, 76, has been cut to size.

“Many of us feel that our national leadership is trying to sideline Yediyurappa in an effort to find the next line of leaders that has been missing in Karnataka,” said a state BJP functionary who declined to be named.

“Remember the time when even the then national leaders used to queue up outside his (Yediyurappa’s) office in Bangalore?” he said, recalling the might of Yediyurappa who single-handedly led the party to form its first government in the south.

While Yediyurappa has never seen eye to eye with Santosh, believed to be the eyes and ears of Shah, the appointment of Kateel has not gone down well with the chief minister and his supporters.

The Yediyurappa-Santosh turf war has clearly divided the party cadres. BJP Yuva Morcha vice-president Bheemashankar Patil recently shot off a letter to Kateel warning him against sidelining Yediyurappa.

This has opened two new fronts for the chief minister who is struggling to run the government that lacks majority.

His only relief in recent days is the postponement of the bypolls to 15 Assembly seats. Originally scheduled for October 21, the elections will now be held on December 5 after 17 disqualified MLAs from the Congress and the JDS appealed to the Supreme Court to put off the bypolls until their case is disposed of.

Barred from contesting elections until the end of the ongoing five-year term of the Assembly, the 17 MLAs, who have quit their House membership, have approached the apex court.

With only two months to go for the crucial bypolls, the last thing the BJP would want is a divided house.

In the Assembly of 225, including the Speaker who is a BJP member, the BJP has 105 seats, and the support of one Independent. While the Congress has 65 seats (after 14 MLAs were disqualified), the JDS has 34 (after three legislators were disqualified). The BJP needs to win seven of the 17 seats to save the government.

To top it all, Yediyurappa’s arch rival and state minister for rural development and panchayati raj, K.S. Eshwarappa, has said the next state elections would be “fought on the basis of organisational strength rather than a single leader or his community”.

Eshwarappa’s comment at a party workers’ meeting in Shimoga on Tuesday is widely believed to have been directed at Yediyurappa, who had all along wielded his clout as the most influential leader from the powerful Lingayat community.

However, the BJP’s national general secretary in charge of the state, P. Muralidhar Rao, countered reports of infighting in the Karnataka unit.

“There is no power struggle between chief minister Yediyurappa, Santosh or Kateel. We are one party,” Rao told reporters while on a tour of the costal city of Mangalore on Sunday.

“Our national president has said that Yediyurappa is a tall leader. Even Kateel has said that. This means there is no problem at all,” Rao added.

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