A Regimented Lot: Who in Yediyurappa’s Family Call the Shots?
The Karnataka chief minister’s five children and their spouses have varied interests but work as a single unit.
(This story was published on 2 April 2021 and is being reposted from The Quint's archives in the light of Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa's resignation.)
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa does not have to look far to find his political detractors as they are very much within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The latest opposition to his authority came from Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister KS Eshwarappa who has written a five-page letter to the state’s Governor Vajubhai R Vala, accusing the chief minister of “authoritarian interference”.
The underlying tone of the letter is, however, a grievance several party members of the BJP have been airing. That is, Yediyurappa’s family members have been interfering with the governance of the state. How? Here’s a look at the BJP strongman’s family tree, the who’s who of his dynasty, and their ‘roles’.
‘Everyone Has a Role to Play’
Yediyurappa and his now deceased wife Mythra Devi have five children – three daughters and two sons. The three daughters – Padmavathi (53 years), Arunadevi (51) and Umadevi (49) – are older than his sons, BY Raghavendra (47 years) and BY Vijayendra (45 years).
Political insiders in Karnataka say that Yediyurappa’s family is regimented, much like a cadre-based party office. Everyone in the family has a role to play. When The Quint contacted Umadevi, who is one of the most articulate members of the family, she said, “All three elder sisters have our jobs cut out.”
“My elder sister Padmavathi is a homemaker and stays with our father at his official residence ‘Cauvery’ and takes care of his health and food. She takes care of his official tours too. The second sister Arunadevi is a social worker, runs an NGO, and is president of the women’s wing of Karnataka Akhila Bharatiya Veerashaiva Mahasabha. I am an educationist, a financial analyst, and I take care of the family’s business.”Umadevi
The sons? Raghavendra is a BJP MP from Shivamogga in Karnataka. As per the Yediyurappa family roles, he is an educationist, agriculturist and businessman. The second son, Vijayendra, is into politics and is yet to be launched by the party as a candidate for polls.
Who Is Powerful Within the Family?
In the BJP and other political circles in Karnataka, Vijayendra is called the ‘Super CM’. There are complaints against him for allegedly interfering with the business of the state.
Yediyurappa has been grooming Vijayendra as his heir apparent. The 45-year-old was put incharge of KR Pet in Mandya district and Sira in Tumakuru district, where Assembly bypolls were held. Both yielded maiden victories for the BJP. What’s more, Yediyurappa has also announced that the youngest son will contest in the next Assembly elections from Varuna constituency in Mysuru.
Vijayendra’s rising prominence has been a matter of concern for other BJP party members.
BJP MLA Basanagouda Patil (Yatnal), who has been at loggerheads with Yediyurappa, had told the media on 15 February this year that the chief minister’s family members are “engaged in large-scale corruption” and that they bring “a bad name” to the state government and the BJP. His taunts were directed at Vijayendra.
Vijayendra’s rise is in contravention to the BJP’s claim that the party does not support dynasty politics. Will his role be curtailed if his father further loses support within the party? Possibly.
Within Yediyurappa’s family, however, there is no power struggle because each sibling is given a set number of tasks.
For instance, it is clear that the daughters and their spouses are to concentrate on business and that the sons are to be in politics. While the elder daughters largely remain away from public life, Umadevi, who is a post-graduate in commerce and a rank-holder from Mysore University, runs a BPO firm in Bengaluru. It is widely believed that the family’s funds flow through this BPO which is into human resources and corporate back-office outsourcing.
Among the sons, it is apparent that the eldest Raghavendra will continue to remain in Shivamogga and try for a Cabinet berth in the Centre. Meanwhile, in Karnataka, Vijayendra would be propped up as a BJP leader who can command the Lingayat sects like his father could.
‘Placing His Family Above All’
Yediyurappa’s family is not limited to the sons and daughters. Daughters’ spouses and their children also play a role.
While Padmavathi’s husband Virupakshappa retired from the state government as an engineer, Arunadevi’s spouse Uday Kumar and Umadevi’s spouse Sohan Kumar are into the family business. Yediyurappa’s grandchildren are either into business or are studying. The most prominent among them is the eldest grandchild Shashidhar, who is 31-years-old and the son of Padmavathi. He was embroiled in a controversy when a Kannada channel accused him of allegedly using shell companies to channel funds into his business in exchange for government clearances.
The family’s business and political interests have, however, affected the political performance of Yediyurappa who was once an unquestionable leader of the BJP. He is now guided more by the family than the party high command, senior leaders of the BJP maintain.
A BJP MLC Lahar Singh told The Quint that it is most unfortunate that for Karnataka’s politicians, the priority has always been “love for their children and kin”, rather than the interest of the state. Endorsing his view, a senior BJP leader said, “After coming to power, the pursuit is to loot the state.”
Even as the outcome to Eshwarappa’s letter to the Governor is awaited, Yediyurappa’s troubles seem to be unending. In February, the Karnataka High Court had directed a special court to take cognisance of an offence pertaining to “illegal denotification” of a land transaction in which Yediyurappa was allegedly involved.
More recently, on 31 March, the high court approved investigation against the chief minister in a criminal case registered in 2019, in which he is accused of allegedly wooing JDS MLA Naganagouda Kandkur’s son Sharanagouda to the BJP. Yediyurappa had allegedly offered money and a berth to Sharanagouda in the Cabinet.
Reacting to the complaint, BJP general secretary and Karnataka incharge Arun Singh told The Quint that the party will concentrate on winning the Belagavi Lok Sabha bypoll and the two Assembly bypolls scheduled for 17 April.
Lahar Singh said that Eshwarappa should have first quit the Cabinet and then made the allegations. Meanwhile, 48 BJP MLAs have come out in support of the chief minister and have written to the BJP high command, indicating their constituencies have been getting equitable funds.
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