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Winds of leadership change blowing hot In Karnataka

 B D Naraayannkar 

Bengaluru, June 07: With age catching up with Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, the hunt is on for his replacement, which is a big challenge for BJP's Central leadership.

 

The party has a national policy of retiring leaders once they cross the 75-year mark. Right now, Yediyurappa is 77 years and would turn 80 at the end of his term as chief minister.

 

The party leadership is aware that it can ill afford to lose the support of Lingayat community, its core votebank, if Yediyurappa is asked to step down, political commentator Dr Harish Ramaswamy told Hindusthan Samachar.

 

BJP faced defeat in 2013 state elections after Yediyurappa quit the BJP in 2011. He floated a new party, Karnataka Janata Party, which walked away with 10 percent of BJP's vote share, mainly belonging to the dominant Lingayat community, which holds sway in 100 assembly constituencies, he said.

 

 

 However, the Central leadership facilitated Yediyurappa's comeback into the party ahead of the crucial 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

 

While the party acknowledges Yediyurappa as a mass leader who changed the political fortunes of the party by bringing down the JDS-Congress government and continues to hold immense clout, the central leadership is conscious of the dearth of second-rung leadership, who can fill the void if the Lingayat strongman decides to hang his shoes.

 

However, a few names have been propped up for consideration which will become clearer post-Covid or after Rajya Sabha polls on June 20, Ramaswamy said.

 

Names of Lingayat leaders Jagadish Shettar, Umesh Katti, V Somanna, Basavaraj Bommai and Murgesh Nirani are doing the rounds, the party still is not convinced about the prowess of these leaders to take Yedyirappa's legacy forward.

 

Names of Vijayapura MLA Basannagouda Patil Yatnal and Dharwad West MLA Aravind Bellad are also doing rounds, as they belong to the dominant Lingayat community.

 

Yatnal, who has strong RSS roots and experience of being a union minister, stands a good chance, but his motormouth image might work against him, Ramaswamy said.

 

Names of non-Lingayat leaders like B L Santhosh, Pralhad Joshi and Suresh Kumar (both Brahmins), R Ashoka (Vokkaliga) and Aravind Limbavalli (SC), also are cropping up.

 

"B L Santosh, national organisation secretary, has a good holding in the party across communities, but the caste matrix in the state unit will not permit. Pralhad Joshi, union minister for parliamentary affairs, could struggle to get a nod," Ramaswamy said.

 

Yediyurappa, on the other hand, is promoting his younger son B Y Vijayendra, who is alleged of being a de-facto chief minister by opposition parties.

 

In fact, a faction in the BJP also alleged Vijayendra's role as a de-facto chief minister. Many party MLAs alleged that Yediyurappa had been directing them to meet Vijayendra to resolve administrative issues.

 

These disgruntled legislators, who are feeling sidelined with defector legislators who were given an entry into the cabinet overlooking them, have raised a pitch against Yediyurappa's style of functioning. They are suggesting Yediyurappa to step down as he was suffering from age-related health issues. 

 

The apple cart of the party has altered after defector MLAs from Congress and JDS were rewarded for giving up their assembly memberships to pave the way for Yediyurappa to instal BJP government in the state.

 

Another mix into the spice is the role of RSS leader B L Santosh, who has been given the task of overseeing the party affairs in the state. He has ensured appointment of three Deputy Chief Ministers and Nalin Kumar Kateel as state BJP chief, giving credence to the buzz in New Delhi about Yediyurappa heading to join the margdarshak mandal of L K Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi.

 

Santosh has a running feud with Yediyurappa which dates back to the Lingayat strongman's first stint as Chief Minister when he ignored him completely, heeding no counsel other than that of his inner group.

 

"Yediyurappa could have been a big factor for BJP to ride back to power in Karnataka, but with the age catching up with Yediyurappa, it is obvious for the party to look for a replacement, who can strengthen a long-term younger leadership in the state," Ramaswamy said.

 

However, the Central leaders should convince Yediyurappa and his family for a smooth leadership change, otherwise he can prove damaging for the party as was witnessed when he walked out of the BJP in 2011 and took away a chunk of votes, he added.

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