India Today - - UPFRONT - By Aravind Gowda

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

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