CM Basavaraj Bommai Takes Oath: Meet the Winners & Losers in Karnataka Politics

BS Yediyurappa, BJP High Command and Lingayat Mutts are the clear winners of the leadership change in Karnataka.

3 min read
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As Basavaraj S Bommai took oath as chief minister of Karnataka on Wednesday, 28 July, a clear list of winners and losers has emerged in the state which has been witnessing political turmoil over the past several months.

In Karnataka, a political rift within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had gradually led to the resignation of former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, which came after months of speculation, on 26 July.

Who won and who lost this round of political tug-of-war in the state? The Quint explains.


Roll Call of Winners

  1. BS Yediyurappa: The former CM has been at the receiving end of complaints as several MLAs and ministers of his cabinet expressed open dissidence against him in the recent past. While the BJP could have removed him unceremoniously from office, Yediyurappa played a shrewd political card; he tendered his resignation.

    Dissident leaders within Karnataka BJP considered this a win, but Yediyurappa emerged a winner when the party high command chose Basavaraj Bommai as the new CM. Bommai has always been Yediyurappa's close aide. This means Yediyurappa can still have a say in governance in Karnataka.

  2. Basavaraj Bommai: The new CM himself is the ultimate winner in the recently concluded political match. Bommai, considered to be more of a Yediyurappa follower than a mass leader, has got a shot at proving himself as the chief minister. BJP's performance in 2023 Assembly elections will also depend on his effectiveness as CM. An understated leader, Bommai stands a chance of leading the party in 2023 polls.

  3. BJP High Command: The top leaders of the BJP were in a spot when dissident party MLAs Arvind Bellad and Banasagouda Patil Yatnal of Karnataka started lodging complaints against Yediyurappa between May and June, 2021. While Yediyurappa was accused of corruption, his son BY Vijayendra was accused of exerting undue influence on the state government.

    But the high command knew that Yediyurappa, the BJP's Karnataka strongman for years, cannot be dethroned without consequences. By selecting Bommai, a close confidant of Yediyurappa, they have retained the latter's support for the BJP.

    It also seems that, for now, the BJP high command may have also pacified the dissidents as they do not have an axe to grind with Bommai.

  4. Lingayat Mutts and Seers: Karnataka has several powerful Lingayat mutts headed by seers who are politically inclined. Lingayats who form around 17 percent of Karnataka's population is a dominant caste. The Lingayat seers who have been supporting BJP since the 1990s, were up in arms against the party when Yediyurappa announced his resignation. Yediyurappa is a Banajiga Lingayat and is known to be one of the most prominent Lingayat leaders of the state.

    When Bommai, a Sadar Lingayat took oath as chief minister within a day of Yediyurappa's resignation, the Lingayat seers stood pacified that the BJP replaced one Lingayat CM with another. The choice of Bommai assures them of their primacy as a political lobby in Karnataka.


Roll Call of Losers

  1. BL Santhosh: BJP's National General Secretary from Karnataka, BL Santhosh is one of the clear losers. The man in charge of Karnataka for the BJP, had cultivated a rung of leaders to oppose Yediyurappa. His camp of leaders included Arvind Bellad and Murugesh Nirani, both of whom had become regular critics of the former CM.

    Santhosh was himself a strong contender for the CM's post when Yediyurappa stepped down. However, as the BJP decided to appease Yediyurappa, BL Santhosh could neither get a shot at the CM's post, nor manage to fill the post with one of his trusted followers in the state unit of the party.

    Santosh may face another jolt if Sadananda Gowda, another supporter of Yediyurappa, takes over as BJP state president, as is now being expected.

  2. Panchamasali BJP Leaders: Three leaders from among the Panchamasali Lingayats, the most prominent Lingayat sub-caste, were particularly against Yediyurappa. Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, Arvind Bellad and Murugesh Nirani. Bellad and Nirani were even considered for the CM's post after Yediyurappa resigned.

    Though they are happy with the dismissal of Yediyurappa, his continued influence on the government through his close aide Bommai may come to haunt these leaders. It is not clear whether they will make it to Bommai's cabinet.

  3. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: The RSS, which has deep roots in Karnataka, was often at loggerheads with Yediyurappa. The body which has a preponderance of Brahmins, including Kannadiga General Secretary Dattatreya Hosabale, at its helm, has never approved of the prominence of other dominant castes, especially the Lingayats, within the BJP, its sister organisation.

    When Yediyurappa resigned, it was speculated that an RSS-bred leader will step into his shoes. However, the BJP rejected the candidature of BL Santhosh, Arvind Bellad and Murugesh Nirani who were seen as 'RSS backed'. Instead, Bommai, a Lingayat and an 'import' from the 'socialist' Janata Parivar was chosen as the CM.

    It remains to be seen how the RSS, which has a say within the BJP's national high command, will deal with the new leadership in Karnataka.

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