A subtle political message was delivered in Kalaburagi this week by sants of the Lingayats, a dominant community in Karnataka, at an event organised by the B S Yediyurappa-led BJP government to mark the 1948 liberation of the Hyderabad Karnataka region from the rule of the Nizam and integration with the Union of India.
Several influential Lingayat sants hailed Yediyurappa as the foremost leader of the single largest community in the state. The president of Anubhava Mantapa — a 12th century spiritual parliament of the Lingayats — Basavalinga Pattadevaru said no chief minister had done as much for the Lingayat holy town of Basavakalyan as Yediyurappa. Another sant, Shivamurthy Swamy of Devapur Mutt, warned of protests by sants if Yediyurappa is deposed as CM.
The warning against dislodging Yediyurappa came amid growing unease in the Yediyurappa camp of his being sidelined by the BJP central leadership on several fronts — announcement of relief for flood-ravaged northern districts, appointment of three deputy chief ministers, and the takeover of the state BJP by the central leadership.
Though Yediyurappa has not spoken in public about the discontent in his camp over being sidelined — since the BJP government was formed on July 26 — the sants are believed to have delivered a message on his behalf in Kalaburagi on September 17. “There is a sense that the BJP high command is toying with the idea of snap polls in Karnataka. It is yet to give the government its full support and confidence,” a Yediyurappa camp insider said.
“There is a feeling that central leaders do not want Yediyurappa to be CM for long. This is due to several factors,” a political analyst in the government said. One reason, the Yediyurappa camp feels, is lack of clear indication on central support for relief work in 17 districts that were ravaged by floods in August. “The CM has not been able to get an audience with the PM for flood relief. Damages have been assessed to be around Rs 32,000 crore,” said the analyst.
The Opposition Congress and JD (S) have picked up the issue to target Yediyurappa.
“PM Modi has not given Yediyurappa an opportunity to meet him on the issue of flood relief,” former JDS chief minister H D Kumaraswamy said. “Denying an appointment to the CM for a post-flood emergency is an insult to Yediyurappa and injustice to our state,” former Congress CM Siddaramaiah said.
“They are doing politics. The flood situation is the same in six-seven states. Funds will be released to all the states at the earliest by the Centre,’’ Yediyurappa countered.
The BJP central leadership is known to have been reluctant in forming a government in Karnataka after the Congress-JD (S) coalition government was dislodged through defections allegedly engineered by Yediyurappa and others in July. The BJP brass delayed clearance to Yediyurappa to stake claim to form the government. The warning from Lingayats comes amid a belief in the Yediyurappa camp that his government will not last beyond 6-8 months as the central leadership is keen on greater stability in numbers and a greater say in state BJP affairs.
A second front is in the appointment of three deputy chief ministers, despite Yediyurappa’s resistance, to assist in running the state, and thereby preventing unilateral control of the government by the CM.
The appointment of the deputy CMs — especially Laxman Savadi, a Lingayat like Yediyurappa, who lost the 2018 Assembly polls but is seen as a possible successor to Yediyurappa — has caused tension in the administration. One of the deputy CMs has reported to the BJP high command about interference in administration by Yediyurappa’s younger son B Y Vijayendra, BJP sources said.
The Opposition JDS has also accused Yediyurappa’s son of interference in administrative affairs. Vijayendra, state general secretary of the BJP youth wing, issued a statement: “A lot of misinformation is being spread on account of the fact that I am the chief minister’s son that I am meddling in transfers. This is being spread as part of efforts to curb my political growth.” .
A third cause for anxiety in the Yediyurappa camp is the loss of control over state BJP affairs after the central leadership appointed its man — MP from Dakshina Kannada region Nalin Kumar Kateel — as president soon after Yediyurappa became CM. According to sources, Yediyurappa (76) is keen to install Vijayendra in a key position in the BJP but the high command does not want to promote dynastic politics. Meanwhile, Vijayendra’s supporters have issued advertisements in local newspapers hailing the 44-year-old as a “future leader”.
“Yediyurappa wants his son to be in a strong position to take over his mantle since he knows that the BJP, which has a retirement age of 75, will ask him to step aside soon,” JDS leader H D Revanna said.
Yediyurappa is believed to have fallen out of the good books of the BJP leadership in May 2018 when he attempted to field Vijayendra in the 2018 Assembly polls from Mysuru region without central clearance. In 2011, Yediyurappa was forced to quit as CM after being accused of corruption in a case where his sons were also accused. In 2016, a special CBI court acquitted Yediyurappa, his two sons and 10 others in the Rs 40-crore bribery case.