The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s performance in the parliamentary elections in Karnataka will have a bearing on the future of the party’s state leadership, with veteran leader BS Yeddyurappa’s tenure hitting its expiry date in February when he turned 76 years of age.
While the exit of Yeddyurappa is almost certain in the next few months, the speed with which a change will be effected will depend on the BJP’s performance in the Lok Sabha polls, both at the national and state level, a senior BJP leader in Karnataka said.
“Yeddyurappa is on his way out and may remain only for a few months. It all depends on the mood in the party after the Lok Sabha results,’’ the senior party leader said. “The party high command will take a decision on the change of leadership only after the poll results and depending on how the party fares in Karnataka and its different regions,’’ he said.
Exit Poll Results 2019: Check state-wise Lok Sabha election exit poll results
The BJP under the leadership of Amit Shah introduced a policy of retiring leaders from party positions when they turn 75.
Yeddyurappa is hoping for another shot at becoming chief minister in the wake of a big BJP victory in the Lok Sabha polls by mustering the support of at least a dozen MLAs from the ruling Congress-JDS coalition in the state.
The BJP now has 104 seats while the Congress-JDS combine has 115 (78 and 37) in the 224-member Assembly where 113 is the simple majority and two vacant seats go to the polls on Sunday.
Anticipating the change in leadership in the party, Yeddyurappa, a leader of the dominant Lingayat community which is the single largest in Karnataka, has stated that he is willing to serve as an ordinary worker in the event of a change of leadership in the next few months.
“We are focused on winning 22 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka at present,’’ he said a few weeks ago when asked about the change of guard in the party. “There is no shortage of leaders to take the party forward in Karnataka. Did anyone know who would succeed Atal Bihari Vajpayee before Narendra Modi became PM? Another leader will emerge the same way,’’ he said.
The names of several second-rung BJP leaders like R Ashok, C T Ravi, Yeddyurappa’s confidante Shobha Karandlaje — who are Vokkaligas — Arvind Limbavalli, a Scheduled Caste leader, B L Santhosh, a former RSS functionary, Nalin Kateel, a Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Dakshina Kannada, have emerged as possible replacements for Yeddyurappa, but party leaders dismissed this as self-projection and not a reflection of the saffron party’s thinking.
“Many leaders are projecting themselves as likely candidates but this is only self-promotion, and the party high command has not spared a thought for this since it is more concerned with government formation after the May 23 results,” the senior BJP leader said.
“The high command is however keen on infusing new blood in the state party leadership,’’ he added.
“In case of a mid-term poll in Karnataka, the party will fight the polls under a collective leadership rather than the leadership of Yeddyurappa alone. The BJP leadership would not like to project any one as chief minister in the next elections and would like to pick a suitable candidate after the polls, like it did in Haryana and UP,’’ the BJP leader further said.
The saffron party is expected to balance caste equations — including the huge support it enjoys among Lingayats — while picking a new leader in the southern state.