Yediyurappa’s Achilles Heel: His Son BY Vijayendra
Yediyurappa’s second son, Vijayendra, is his most trusted ally.
“Yediyurappa’s son is the de facto CM of Karnataka,” complained BJP members in an unsigned four-page-letter written and released in February 2020.
Yediyurappa’s second son, Vijayendra, who is his most trusted ally and whom he closely relied upon during his fourth term as Karnataka Chief Minister, has proved to be his Achilles heel.
The shadow of his family has haunted Yediyurappa for long, and their business transactions were the prime reason he had to step down in 2011 as well.
After taking office in July 2019, Yediyurappa was surrounded by relatives like NR Santhosh, who had been with him for many years even when he was not in power. After charges of kidnapping, dowry harassment and attempt to murder emerged against Santhosh, Yediyurappa distanced himself from Santhosh and his associates. After he shifted from his private residence in Bengaluru’s Dollars Colony to the official residence Cauvery, Yediyurappa’s house and office slowly came into the grasp of his son Vijayendra, say insiders.
Vijayendra, Yediyurappa’s second son, is the Vice President of Karnataka BJP. A lawyer by education, he is known to be politically more assertive and ambitious than his elder brother and Shivamogga MP BY Raghavendra. As Yediyurappa aged and his control over BJP in the state started waning, he increasingly banked on his second son whom he saw as his political successor.
With the exception of a few trusted allies, as Yediyurappa cut himself off from the rest of his party, allegations of Vijayendra running a parallel government grew louder. Many ministers complained that Vijayendra interfered in their ministries by communicating directly with the officers, keeping them in the dark. Many MLAs alleged that funds to their constituencies were also determined by Vijayendra. Several BJP leaders accused Vijayendra of blocking access to Yediyurappa.
While the BJP senior leadership reportedly tried to address these allegations, Yediyurappa’s dependence on Vijayendra continued. Electorally, Vijayendra took on the uphill task of establishing the BJP in their weakest area of the state -- the Old Mysuru region. He was in-charge of the KR Pete bye-elections in December 2019 and with the victory in the JD(S) bastion, he started coming out of his father’s rather large shadow. In November 2020, Vijayendra had camped in Sira, a constituency that the BJP had never won.
And as the BJP emerged victorious in the Sira bye-election, credit was given to Vijayendra, much to the exasperation of leaders like Eshwarappa who quickly told the media that the victory was a collective effort.
Over the last few months, Vijayendra has made several trips to Delhi to meet the BJP senior leadership as Yediyurappa’s envoy. His latest visit on July 23 was to convince the high command that the show of loyalty by Lingayat pontiffs was not orchestrated by Yediyurappa. In the months leading to Yediyurappa’s resignation, Vijayendra was seen holding meetings with several seers across the state, including Suttur, Siddaganga, Hiriyur, Challakere and Chitradurga, ostensibly to drum up support for his father.
Though there are many factors which eventually led to Yediyurappa’s resignation - including his age, reluctance to follow the high command and the need for another leader in Karnataka - Vijayendra’s overarching powers and allegations of corruption also made things untenable for Yediyurappa.
But the relationship between father and son was not always solid. In 2010, Yediyurappa had asked Vijayendra and daughter BS Umadevi to leave his house. Yediyurappa had then said that the move was to correct the mistake he made by surrounding himself with selfish people and had asked for details of any of his relatives using his name to get any government work done. Many believed that this was a political move by Yediyurappa to correct his image.
However, it was clearly not enough to salvage the situation. The core of Yediyurappa’s woes in 2011 was the Prerana Educational and Social Trust (PEST) run by his two sons in Shivamogga. The allegation was that as CM, Yediyurappa deliberately allowed violations of an agreement between JSW and the state-run Mysore Minerals Ltd. The then opposition alleged that this breach cost the exchequer Rs 100 crore. In lieu of this, South West Mining Ltd and other subsidiaries of JSW allegedly donated Rs 20 crore to the Prerna Trust.
This apart, there was another land denotification by Yediyurappa under the scanner. It was alleged that he denotified 1.12 acres of agricultural land in Bengaluru East favouring a sitting minister, Krishnaiah Shetty, who in turn sold it illegally to Vijayendra, Raghavendra and Yediyurappa’s son-in-law Sohan. The land was allegedly then converted for non-agricultural purposes and sold to JSW for a very high price. Subsequently, the Lokayukta teams even raided several properties owned by Yediyurappa’s family. While Yediyurappa and all his family members were acquitted by a CBI court in 2016, his image had already been tainted. And charges of corruption and nepotism refused to leave him.
While Vijayendra and other family members were politically kept at bay during Yediyurappa’s previous stint as CM, this time around Vijayendra was perceived to be given a direct entry into the CMO. Those close to Yediyurappa say that his insistence of continuing as CM even as many party colleagues openly called for his exit was, in most part, to cement a political future for his sons, particularly the younger one. While the BJP high command reportedly did not want to accommodate them in senior positions in both the government and the party to fight the image of nepotism, Yediyurappa’s insistence caused much of the internal misapprehensions.
(Published in an arrangement with The News Minute)
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