KARNATAKA: WATCH YOUR BACK, BSY
Having been ousted by the BJP, the outgoing Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy warned his waiting rival, the BJP’s likely CM pick B.S. Yeddyurappa, that rebel MPs would not hesitate to betray him too, should the opportunity arise. No doubt, Yeddyurappa, a wily, experienced politician, already knows he’s in a dogfight.
Though the BJP is in a comfortable position to form the government, Yeddyurappa faces several hurdles, not least ensuring his own survival as CM for the next four years. He has ascended to and failed to complete his term as CM thrice before; twice because his party did not have the majority in the assembly, and once because he was implicated—and later acquitted—in a $3 billion (around Rs 20,691 crore) mining scam. He needs the support of the rebel MLAs to make his majority stick in the assembly. Many rebels feel they are in a position of power and should get plum positions in a Yeddyurappa government. But political historian A. Veerappa says, “it’ll be extremely difficult for the BJP to convince their cadre to welcome Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) leaders into the fold with open arms”.
The BJP has risked the sympathy of long time party members in order to secure the support of rebels, but the
party also knows that hurt feelings can be smoothed over. However, Yeddyurappa, even if he becomes CM, will have to be wary. “The biggest hurdle for him,” says political analyst N.G. Prakash, “is to persuade the BJP’s central leadership to keep him in power till 2023.” Yeddyurappa is already over the BJP’s cutoff age of 75 for party leaders; by February, 2023, he will be 80. The BJP is keen to consolidate its gains in Karnataka, its sole electoral success in the South. It recognises that Yeddyurappa, observes Prakash, has the unconditional support of the Lingayat community, the largest in the state and “crucial to the BJP’s chances in municipal and panchayat polls in 2020”.
There are other contenders for the CM post, like Anant Kumar Hegde, a BJP MP for Uttara Kannada, and party power broker B.L. Santhosh, widely credited for the party’s general election triumph in the state. But Santhosh was recently appointed the BJP’s national general secretary (organisation), picked for the position by home minister Amit Shah himself. “We are confident,” says Lingayat youth leader N. Prashanth, “that Yeddyurapa will deliver a stable government.” Their support should win Yeddyurappa time in the top job. But, as Kumaraswamy saw, there are always others waiting in the wings, sharpening their knives. ■
TRUST FALL B.S. Yeddyurappa (standing, right) at the trust motion debate at the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on July 18