3 Deputy CMs Formula Will Change K’taka BJP’s Political Structure
Savadi, not a current MLA, and the relatively inexperienced Dr Ashwath Narayan as deputies have raised eyebrows
One week after getting the go-ahead to expand his cabinet and induct 17 ministers, CM Yediyurappa was finally allotted three deputies -- Malleshwaram MLA Dr Ashwath Narayana CN, former MLA Laxman Savadi and senior MLA Govind Karajol from Mudhol -- by the BJP.
This is the first time that Karnataka will have three deputy CMs. Karajol is a three-time MLA and a senior leader of the party, but the other two choices -- Dr Ashwath Narayan and Laxman Savadi -- have come as a surprise. Savadi is not a current MLA, having lost the 2018 polls, and Dr Ashwath Narayan is a two-time MLA from Malleshwaram.
This decision, according to leaders in the BJP, is the sign of the changing power dynamics in Karnataka politics. Specifically, taking away from Yediyurappa.
There were three main implications to the BJP’s decision.
1. The senior Karnataka BJP leadership have been sidelined, indicating they want to groom a new set of leaders.
2. The new deputy chief ministers don’t have the mass support to emerge as an alternative powerhouse like Yediyurappa.
3. Since they are dependent on the central leadership for power, their loyalties will remain with the central leadership than Yediyurappa.
Grooming New Leadership
Over the past decades, thanks to the support of the large Lingayat community in the state, BS Yediyurappa enjoyed the status of the political powerhouse. Such was his power that in 2011, when the central leadership asked him to step down as the chief minister following corruption allegation, he left the party.
He contested the election from Karnataka Janata Party (KJP), splitting the BJP’s votes. This split of votes helped the Congress come to power with a majority in the 2013 Assembly election.
So, when the BJP managed to get back power after alleged poaching of coalition MLAs last month, the central command acted to reduce Yediyurappa’s influence in the party. Making Yediyurappa wait to get a cabinet and appointing three deputy chief ministers are said to be part of this process.
The Selection of Candidates
When the three deputy chief ministers were announced, the senior leaders in the party, like former chief minister Jagadish Shettar, former deputy chief ministers R Ashoka and KS Eshwarappa were sidelined.
The three candidates who were given the posts were not considered as state leaders over the past five years and one of the deputy chief ministers, CN Ashwath Narayana, was a first-time minister.
A senior BJP official pointed that these men selected for a reason. “These men don’t have the mass support to become a strong leader like Yediyurappa. So, they are being groomed to become future leaders in the state, who are close to New Delhi. Also, there is representation from all three major communities (Lingayat, Vokkaliga and Dalit) to cater to the caste equations,” he said.
Another leader pointed out that two of the deputy chief ministers were close to Yediyurappa, but since the appointment, the loyalties are expected to change. “Since these men were given power by the central leadership, it is clear they will have to appease the bosses in Delhi than Yediyurappa to retain power,” he pointed.
Workers Protest BJP’s Decision
While the party has a clear plan behind appointing the new deputy chief ministers, the decision has been opposed by many in the party. In Koppal, a district in north Karnataka BJP workers burnt the poster of BJP President Amit Shah in protest. These workers were demanding a deputy CM post for senior BJP leader B Sriramalu.
CT Ravi, a senior BJP leader who was inducted to the cabinet sent his official car back on Monday night, allegedly unhappy over the not getting a good portfolio. He later said he is with the party, but ‘he will say what he has to say at the right time’.
The question remains if the BJP central command’s attempt to take control of the state’s politics would backfire in coming the days.
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