How the RSS is Making Yediyurappa Irrelevant, One Snub At A Time 

The RSS is looking at slowly draining away this Lingayat leader’s political relevance.

5 min read
BS Yeddyurappa is a complex reality for the Karnataka BJP. 

In Karnataka, it is no longer a secret that the BJP high command is snubbing Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa in the party's decision making. Similarly, the BL Santosh-led RSS faction gaining significant control over the party in the state is no longer a matter of speculation either.

The BJP high command, where Yediyurappa's rival from Karnataka, BL Santosh holds a top post of national general secretary (organisation), rejecting all the three names recommended by Yediyurappa for the Rajya Sabha polls on 19 June, is the latest in a series of snubs, clearly demonstrating the changing equations within the Karnataka BJP.

It is perplexing to many that despite the high command sidelining him, there are no immediate plans to remove Yediyurappa from the Chief Minister’s post. This then begs the question - what is the party high command trying to achieve with these snubs?

According to party insiders, the BJP has realised that removing a popular leader like Yediyurappa would backfire. Instead, they are looking at slowly draining away this Lingayat leader's political relevance.

Lingayats, Political History & Yeddy

The Lingayat vote consolidated in favour of its regional strongman BS Yeddurappa. 
The Lingayat vote consolidated in favour of its regional strongman BS Yeddurappa. 
(Photo: The Quint/ Rahul Gupta)

Yediyurappa's stature in Karnataka politics and some events in the state's political history are vital in understanding the BJP leadership's strategy. In Karnataka BJP, Yediyurappa is the only mass leader, and he enjoys the support of the Lingayat community, which forms roughly 14% of the state's vote share.

There are historical lessons to prove that a hasty removal of a Lingayat leader could be disastrous. The Lingayat community, which forms BJP's biggest vote bank in Karnataka, didn't initially vote for the saffron party. They used to be a Congress vote bank.

In 1990, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi unceremoniously removed Lingayat Chief Minister Veerendra Patil from power. This decision resulted in an exodus of Lingayat votes from Congress. After a series of mergers, splits and coalitions, this vote bank consolidated with the BJP and Yediyurappa became its face by early 2000s. 

The central high command doesn't want to risk a repeat of the Veerendra Patil story, namely, ousting Yediyurappa and finding the Lingayat support evaporating as well.


The Strategy of Humiliation

Taking a cue from history, instead of removing him at once, the high command is slowing draining Yediyurappa's power using a series of humiliations. The aim is to gradually project the CM as a weak leader.

The sidelining started soon after the JD(S)-Congress coalition government collapsed following alleged horse-trading of MLAs by Yediyurappa. The Kumaraswamy government lost the trust vote on 23 June, but the party high command didn't give him the nod to take oath till 26 June.

He had to wait another 25 days before the central high command allowed him to have a cabinet, even though the state was witnessing devastating floods. During these 25 days, he made multiple trips to New Delhi to meet Amit Shah, but the home minister didn’t give Yediyurappa an audience.

In fact, not getting an audience with senior leadership has been one of the biggest concerns for Yediyurappa. According to party insiders, on multiple occasions, Yediyurappa was denied an audience with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The situation was so desperate that in January, Yediyurappa, who had drawn flak for the Centre releasing inadequate flood relief to the state, had to ask Prime Minister Modi for funds in a public meeting in Tumkur since he couldn't get a private meeting with him during his visit to Karnataka.

"I have brought this to the notice of the Prime Minister three or four times, but till now no additional relief has been sanctioned. I request him with folded hands to release it soon," Yediyurappa said during his speech.

Prime Minister Modi, who spoke later at the same event, did not respond to BSY's request in his speech. Yet another snub in full public view.


Overturning Yediyurappa's Decisions

After the mistreatment from the high command, came the series of dismissals of his choice of candidates. Yediyurappa wanted to include two of his loyalists Umesh Katti and Arvind Limbavali in the state cabinet. Their names were almost finalised before the central high command had them dropped at the last minute.

During the Lok Sabha election, Yediyurappa wanted Tejaswini, wife of former union minister and Yediyurappa's close associate Anant Kumar, to contest from Bengaluru south. He had even made a statement that she was the party's choice. However, overnight, RSS backed candidate Tejasvi Surya was given the ticket.

Tejasvi Surya and Tejaswini Ananth Kumar 
Tejasvi Surya and Tejaswini Ananth Kumar 
(Photo: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

Similarly, despite pushing for Aravind Limbavali to replace him as the party's state president, RSS backed candidate Nalin Kumar Kateel was given the post.

During the election for Bengaluru mayor, after several rounds of meetings Yediyurappa loyalist Padmanabha Reddy had to withdraw his nomination.

The latest episode involved the list of BJP's Rajya Sabha candidates from Karnataka. Yediyurappa had suggested the names of Prabhakar Kore, Ramesh Katti and Prakash Shetty. But when the final list came, the party candidates included the relatively unknown Eranna Kadadi and Ashok Gasti, who were the RSS faction's choice.


Nibbling Away at the Political Relevance of a Mass Leader

How does the BJP high command plan to finally checkmate Yediyurappa? From these series of snubs, the message to the party cadre is clear: be it a cabinet post, mayor’s position or even a seat to the Rajya Sabha, they have to approach the high command or the state's RSS faction. Yediyurappa no longer has the power to make these decisions.

With this strategy and no elections in the horizon, where they would require Yediyurappa’s mass appeal, the high command hopes Yediyurappa will slowly lose his political relevance.

Why do they want to make Yediyurappa irreverent?

"They RSS wants clerks for Chief Ministers who are easily replaceable," said a Yediyurappa loyalist on the condition of anonymity. "If you look at the chief ministers in UP, Gujarat or any major state, the chief minister is a yes man to the high command, and there won't be a backlash if he is replaced. But here they know Yediyurappa is a political powerhouse and RSS doesn't like it," he added.

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