Karnataka CM Resigns: Crisis Brews in BJP as MLAs, Ministers Show Open Defiance

Yediyurappa has been wanting to continue to work for the BJP. MLAs and ministers in Karnataka think otherwise.

4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>BS Yediyurappa at the Karnataka governor's office.</p></div>

BS Yediyurappa, who resigned as Karnataka's chief minister on 26 July, has been repeating for the past 10 days a cryptic line about his future responsibility in his party, the BJP. “I will work for Bharatiya Janata Party’s return to power in Karnataka in 2023,” he reiterated, even on Monday when he delivered an emotional resignation speech.

While the reassurance is aimed at quelling a crisis in the Karnataka BJP, it has become apparent that no amount of smooth talk would kill dissidence, which has been brewing for the past several months in the party. As a preview for what lies ahead, several leaders of the BJP made it crystal clear on Monday that they will no longer entertain Yediyurappa in any role in the state BJP unit.

The first act of defiance was the absence of some BJP MLAs, ministers, and senior leaders at the function held on Monday to mark the two years of the BJP-led governance in the state.

This event was supposed to showcase Yediyurappa's achievements in the state.

The Ones Who Moved on Before BSY’s End

Conspicuous by their absence at the event were MLAs Arvind Bellad and Basanagouda Patil Yatnal. The two were vocal critics of Yediyurappa when he was in power. Yatnal was the first to openly comment in the third week of July that Yediyurappa will be replaced by a pro-Hindutva chief Minister.

In Karnataka Yediyurappa is known as a caste chieftain – a leader of the dominant Lingayat community. He had kept the RSS and its functionaries at bay and was known to be more sectarian than communal.

Yatnal wanted a change from this and is still lobbying for the same, BJP sources told The Quint.

Bellad, on the other hand, has been accusing Yediyurappa of unleashing electronic surveillance on him. “His major complaint was that Yediyurappa is keeping a close watch on him and disallowing him from functioning,” a source said. Bellad, an RSS-bred leader, has been aspiring for the CM's post. He is close to BL Santhosh, Bharatiya Janata Party’s national general secretary, who has been rallying against Yediyurappa behind the scenes.

Among the cabinet ministers who did not turn up for the event were CP Yogeshwara, minister for tourism, environment and ecology and Murugesh Nirani, minister for mines and geology.

While Yogeshwara has been campaigning against Yediyurappa for long, Nirani is believed to be the man behind the scenes. The latter, is believed to be a strong contender for the chief minister’s chair. “Nirani was mostly silent during most of the clamour for Yediyurappa’s resignation. But he was always supporting the dissidents,” a source close to the BJP said.

In defiance on Monday Nirani changed his profile picture on twitter to one where he is wearing a BJP cap. At a cursory glance the cap resembles a crown.

Another prominent minister who was absent at the event was Shashikala Jolle, who holds the portfolio for women and child development. A bunch of national leaders of the BJP, too, gave the event a miss.


Absent National Leaders

On 25 July, BJP’s National President JP Nadda had given a pat on the back to Yediyurappa. “He has done a good job in Karnataka,” Nadda had said. But the glamourous two-year celebration, which had video messages from several industrial dignitaries, including Kris Gopalakrishnan of Infosys, Kiran Mazhumdar Shaw of Biocon, Devi Prasad Shetty of Narayana Health, Sriharsha Majety of Swiggy, and Nithin Kamath of Zerodha, failed to have the presence of senior BJP leaders with links to Karnataka.

CT Ravi, national general secretary of BJP, was absent from the event as well.

Ravi, incidentally, has been one of the contenders for the CM post. While he had vehemently denied that there would be a leadership change in Karnataka, Ravi has not been batting for Yediyurappa in the recent past, sources said. Also, Ravi had been silent about the leadership change even after the announcement was made. BL Santhosh, another national general secretary of the BJP, too, was absent.

Pralhad Joshi, Union minister, originally from Karnataka, too, was absent from the event.

“While the national leaders can say that this was a state event and stay away from the meet, the fact remains that none of the senior leaders of the BJP were present at the event. It is clear from this that Yediyurappa’s time in the party is over,” a national leader of the BJP said.

Meanwhile, Lingayat seers, who have been supporting Yediyurappa for a long time, expressed their anger towards the BJP. “It was the national leadership that did not allow Yediyurappa to stay on. This is unjust,” Siddaganda seer Shivakumara Swamy reportedly said.

The BJP’s national leadership, however, seems to think that the party does not need Yediyurappa’s support anymore.

“When so many MLAs and ministers have expressed their displeasure even after Yediyurappa’s emotional response, the party cannot expect them to support him during the run up to 2023 elections,” the BJP leader said.


Will the Stand-Off Between BSY and BJP Rungs Last?

Despite dissidence within the party Yediyurappa is still credited as the leader who built BJP’s Karnataka unit from scratch. He is known as the leader who can bring together different caste groups to vote for the BJP.

Yediyurappa’s presence will, however, be limited in the future, BJP sources said.

“His sons (BY Vijayendra and Raghavendra) will continue to have a place in the BJP. His power will be limited to the extent of their's,” the leader said. State leaders of the BJP, however, are not fans of Vijayendra, Yediyurappa's ambitious son, who was known as the 'super CM' when BSY was in power.

As Vijayendra is accused of having controlled governance in the state during his father's term, state leaders of the BJP are expected to keep him at a distance.

Will BSY's family and his legacy continue to haunt BJP in Karnataka?

(With inputs from Pratiba Raman)

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