BS Yediyurappa Resigns: Who Will Be Karnataka's Next Chief Minister?
As BS Yediyurappa steps down, the BJP is looking for a CM candidate with a 'clean' image.
Within a week of Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa exhorting his followers on Twitter to keep calm, he resigned on Monday, 26 July. Meanwhile, the names of a few BJP legislators from the state are doing the rounds as possible candidates for the post.
Among the mix are the BJP’s Hubli-Dharwad MLA Arvind Bellad, the state’s Mines and Geology Minister Murugesh Nirani, and Union Minister for Coal, Mines and Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi. Others in the list include the BJP’s National General Secretary CT Ravi and state Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai.
On Monday, Nirani was in New Delhi, reportedly to lobby for the post.
'Clean' Image Sought
The line-up suggests that cutting across caste lines, the BJP high command is scouting for a Yediyurappa replacement. “The party is looking for a leader with a clean image, who can put to rest the corruption charges against the Yediyurappa government and mismanagement by his sons – BY Vijayendra and BY Raghavendra,” a source close to the BJP said.
On Thursday, 22 July, Yediyurappa said that he is ready to lead the BJP during the 2023 elections even if he is asked to step down from the chief minister post. Yediyurappa is expected to release a booklet showcasing his government’s achievements over the last two years, on 26 July. The CM said on Thursday, “So far, I have not received any message from the central leadership. I might get a message on 25 July. Whatever the decision (of the central leadership), I will abide by it”.
He further stated that he has not suggested names of any potential chief ministerial candidates to the central leadership. “It is up to the central leadership. Even if they ask me, I am not going to suggest any name,” he told reporters in Bengaluru.
Why Bellad, Nirani, Bommai?
Arvind Bellad, Murugesh Nirani, and Basavaraj Bommai are Panchamasali Lingayats. Panchamasalis form the biggest chunk of the dominant Lingayat caste. Yediyurappa is a Banajiga Lingayat. Banajigas are an influential community among the Lingayats who form about 17 percent of Karnataka’s population.
Bellad is the son of former legislator Chandrakant Bellad. He is believed to have a clean image and is 51 years old. “Bellad is a frontrunner as he has at least 20 years of political future ahead of him,” a state BJP leader said.
Meanwhile, Nirani is mired in controversy. “There are indications that there could be defamatory material in CDs that reveal his underhand deals. But his connections in Delhi are unparalleled,” the leader said. When asked, Bellad’s office denied that he had received any calls from the BJP high command. Nirani’s office was unreachable.
Bommai, who is currently the home minister of the state, is also known to be upright. “He has projected himself as a close confidant of Yediyurappa. But when the power shift happens, Bommai will be a frontrunner for the CM’s chair,” the source said. Bommai remained unreachable.
Can a Banajiga Lingayat chief minister be replaced with a Panchamasali Lingayat one?
In a recent meeting with the BJP’s state in-charge Arun Singh, Basavajaya Mrityunjaya Swami, a Panchamasali Lingayat seer, had asked the BJP to consider a Panchamasali chief minister. The community has been demanding reservations under category 2A among Backward Classes. “If one of the Panchamasali leaders gets the chief minister's chair, the political unrest thanks to the squabble for reservation could die down,” a senior BJP leader said.
Meanwhile, Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, a Panchamasali MLA who led protests against Yediyurappa, is nowhere in the picture. “He is a grassroots leader and does not know diplomacy,” a source said.
Why Joshi, Ravi?
As several seers of Lingayat mutts in Karnataka have rallied behind Yediyurappa in the past two days, the BJP could even be looking at a non-Lingayat leader. Union Minister Pralhad Joshi, who is a Brahmin, has been in the running for months, a source said. “He is well respected in the state. The idea is to get a leader who has followers from different castes. Joshi has that,” a source said.
Meanwhile, CT Ravi, who is a Vokkaliga leader, is also under consideration as his community is the second-most influential caste group in the state. Both Joshi and Ravi had rallied behind Yediyurappa in the recent past. Both had also vouched that there would be no leadership change in the state.
“That does not prevent the high command from considering them. Joshi’s only disadvantage is that the party thinks of him as a national leader. He was even retained at the centre in the recent cabinet reshuffle,” the source added.
Meanwhile, BJP circles in Karnataka are abuzz with speculation that the party may choose someone who keeps a low profile. Yatnal was the first to add fuel to this speculation.
"The party will think of a surprise candidate. Yediyurappa is on his way out," Yatnal said at a media briefing held on 21 July.
It is, however, unlikely for the BJP to go for a totally new face in the state. "Yediyurappa is a trusted leader of the party who helped the party grow in Karnataka. It is difficult to fill his shoes," a BJP leader said.
Minister for Large and Medium Industries Jagadish Shettar and Minister for Housing V Somanna could also be in the race.
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