BJP MLA Yatnal’s Attacks on K’taka CM Yediyurappa – A Ploy by RSS?

MLA Yatnal and CM Yediyurappa had a verbal duel during an internal party meeting in Bengaluru on Monday. 

4 min read
BS Yediyurappa and Basanagouda Patil Yatnal

On Monday afternoon, 4 January, a shouting match took place between Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and BJP MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, at Bengaluru’s Capitol Hotel, located just over a kilometre from the Vidhana Soudha.

MLA Yatnal has been in the news recently over his statements claiming that Yediyurappa will not be chief minister for long, over past three months. On Monday, he took on Yediyurappa during an internal party meeting, accusing him of ignoring the districts of north Karnataka and letting his son run a “parallel administration” in the state.


While Yatnal’s statements against the chief minister were not new, him claiming Yediyurappa was working against the ideals of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Narendra Modi and the RSS, has ticked off many within the BJP.

Interestingly, he unleashed his anger at the chief minister just a day after BJP national general secretary Arun Singh pulled up Yatnal for consistently speaking on leadership change in public.

So, why is this lone MLA taking on the chief minister without any consequences and why are his remarks creating ripples in the political circles in the state?

The answer lies in the support he enjoys from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the battle for dominance between the RSS and Yediyurappa factions within the Karnataka BJP.

Who is Yatnal & Why is He Crucial for the RSS?

Yatnal is an MLA from the Vijayapura constituency. Even though a low-key figure in state politics, he was the Minister of State for Textile from 2002 to 2003 and Minister of State for Railways from 2003 to 2004 in the Vajpayee government.

In the current context, more than his past, his caste is of importance. Yatnal is a member of the Panchamasali community, which is the largest subsect within the various subcastes of the Lingayat community. He also comes from north Karnataka, which has a large concentration of Lingayats.

The last time he had created controversy was in October this year, when he claimed Yediyurappa won’t be chief minister for long. The timing of his statement was peculiar. It came just days after a prominent leader of the Panchamasali community demanded a change in their reservation status.

The Panchamasali community has been claiming they were not getting enough benefits of the reservation under Section 3B and they have been asking to be included in the Section 2A of the reservation list, which provides 15 percent reservation for 102 castes.

The demand was used by the RSS faction within the BJP, as part of their plans to dethrone Yediyurappa, and Yatnal was the face for the plot, accuse the Yediyurappa camp. 

Removing Yediyurappa has been a tough challenge so far for the RSS, because he remains Karnataka BJP's only mass leader, and enjoys the support of the Lingayat community, which forms roughly 14 percent of the state's electorate.

In the controversy surrounding the Panchamasali community, if Yediyurappa agreed to shift the subcaste to 2A, other subcastes within the Lingayat community will demand a similar change, eventually leading to the split of his most dependable vote bank.

If he doesn’t agree to this demand, the opposition from the Panchamasali subcaste is expected to increase over a period of time, once again threatening to divide his vote bank. In such a situation, it may be possible for another leader to emerge as a Lingayat strongman, which Yatnal has been projecting himself to be.

The Latest Attack on Yediyurappa

The demands of Panchamasali subcaste has since lost steam but Yatnal has come out against Yediyurappa once again, this time claiming he is going against party ideals. This was during an internal meeting of the MLAs ahead of the budget.

On Monday, he began by talking about the step-motherly treatment given to constituencies in north Karnataka, including his, which are Lingayat dominated. Soon after, he accused Yediyurappa’s son Vijayendra of running a parallel government in the state.

He asked why a senior leader like him should meet Vijayendra, who had no Constitutional role in the State’s administration, to get work done.

“I am an MLA. I should directly speak to you. Why should I talk to Vijayendra?” Yatnal allegedly asked Yediyurappa.

He continued his argument, accusing Yediyurappa of misgovernance and of “compromising the BJP’s ideals” and “damaging the party.” According to sources, the argument was so loud that the chief minister had to ask him to lower his voice, saying he ‘is not deaf.’


RSS is Creating a Narrative Against Yediyurappa, Say Leaders

Those in the Yediyurappa camp say they are aware of the plot backed by RSS to malign Yediyurappa. According to them, the party not taking any action against Yatnal, despite him undermining the chief minister in public, multiple times, shows that he enjoys support within the party.

“The party claims that the action should be taken by the central command because he is a senior leader, but the fact is that there is no intention to take any action against him,” said a senior leader.

According to the leader, a narrative has been created against the chief minister. “It began with the instigation of the Panchamasali community and the Lingayat community, and claiming that the chief minister is ignoring north Karnataka (which has a large Lingayat population). Now, they are projecting the chief minister as someone who doesn’t follow party ideals. Yatnal is accusing someone who built the party from scratch in the state and he continues to do so without fear of action. What does it tell?” asked a BJP office-bearer.

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