Lingayat pontiffs signal BJP to let Yediyurappa carry on till 2023
Dozens of Lingayat pontiffs have been calling on Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa in a signal to the BJP to let him run the show till the next Assembly election less than two years away.
With several recent developments pointing towards a leadership change, although the party has not officially confirmed it, the seers have come out in support of Yediyurappa, who belongs to the influential Lingayat community that has been the BJP’s mainstay for over two decades.
In a state where religious leaders make no attempt to hide their political leanings, more than 30 pontiffs met Yediyurappa on Wednesday in a show of strength. More than 20 other pontiffs had met the veteran leader on Tuesday evening and urged the party not to replace him.
The head of the Murugha Mutt, Shivamurthy Muruga Sharanu, is among the seers who want the BJP to allow Yediyurappa to continue till the 2023 elections.
“The BJP must not remove him now. He is the man who built the party and opened the first southern gateway for them,” he said.
The Lingayat community was formed in the 12th century by reformer-saint Basaveshwara, fondly called Basavanna, as an alternative to Brahminical Hinduism. A minority component called the Veerashaivas, who are often clubbed with the Lingayats, follow Vedic texts. But Lingayats practise the teachings of Basavanna and do not consider themselves as Hindus.
The pontiff of the Nidumamidi mutt, Veerabhadra Chennamala Swami, warned the BJP of the damage it could inflict upon itself if Yediyurappa was removed.
“The party would suffer badly if it forces him to resign. They should not take any sudden decision to remove him,” he told reporters after meeting Yediyurappa on Wednesday.
Siddalinga Swamy of the Siddaganga Mutt urged the BJP to let Yediyurappa complete the rest of his term. “We want him to continue in the interest of the state. He did not say anything when we asked if he was ready to resign.”
The seers said they were ready to travel to Delhi to convince the BJP leadership about their demand.
Even Lingayat Congress leaders have expressed their support to Yediyurappa with Shamanur Shivasankarappa and M.B. Patil visiting the chief minister on Monday.
But state Congress working president Saleem Ahmed explained that Shivasankarappa met Yediyurappa in his capacity as the president of the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha and Patil in his personal capacity.
A BJP functionary told The Telegraph it wouldn’t be easy to remove Yediyurappa. “We have to first convince him to resign and with a proper formula to take care of his sons and supporters,” said the functionary who wished not to be named.
While his elder son B.Y. Raghavendra is a Lok Sabha member, younger son and BJP state vice-president B.Y. Vijayendra is Yediyurappa’s Man Friday.
The last time Yediyurappa was forced to quit as chief minister was in 2011 when he was arrested over illegal land deals. He then formed the Karnataka Janata Party in 2012 and garnered about 10 per cent votes in the 2013 state polls, decimating the BJP by cutting into its votes.