Since February, two anonymous letters have surfaced labelling Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa’s younger son B Y Vijayendra, 45, as a “Super CM” whose word can seal project clearances and transfers. The second letter, which has signatures purportedly of a few BJP MLAs, suggested that the son’s aides collected a “Vijayendra Service Tax”. This letter was released by Congress leaders in Mysore at the end of August.
The letters coincide with murmurs of growing unhappiness in the BJP over the way the government is being run. There are allegations of corruption and interference in the administration by members of Yediyurappa’s family. The CM has been kept hanging on a Cabinet reshuffle by the BJP’s Delhi leadership.
Off the record, BJP MLAs say Vijayendra, who became a vice-president of the Karnataka BJP two months ago, has emerged as a key player in the government. “There are two CMs in the state. Vijayendra is the de facto CM, Yediyurappa is the de jure CM,” Congress leader and former CM Siddaramaiah said after the second letter emerged. Another former CM, H D Kumaraswamy of the JD-S, has talked of “a bidding process for transferring officials”.
Recently, a tweet from a handle linked to a former police officer associated with the BJP, Shankar Bidari, tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and asked, “Why are you tolerating the worst kind of corruption by your CM and family in Karnataka”.
While in Delhi earlier this month, Yediyurappa had said there was no truth to the allegations against Vijayendra and claimed there was “a systematic conspiracy to create confusion”.
The 77-year-old Yediyurappa’s family has created problems for him earlier too. In 2011, he was forced to quit as CM, and subsequently jailed, over allegations of corruption involving Vijayendra and Raghavendra. All three were acquitted by a CBI court in 2016. One of the reasons why Yediyurappa fell out with the BJP leadership ahead of the 2018 Assembly polls was his push for a ticket for Vijayendra from Mysore’s Varuna constituency.
While Yediyurappa’s elder son B Y Raghavendra, 47, is also in politics and a BJP MP from the family’s home district of Shimoga, Vijayendra, a lawyer, is considered to be the CM’s natural political heir. Over the last one year, Vijayendra has been projecting himself as a leader “for the future” with the help of a team of publicists and media professionals.
According to sources, the BJP’s national leadership had specifically instructed Yediyurappa to ensure that his family and close aides like MP Shobha Karandlaje did not interfere in the administration, given the 2008-11 experience. The murmurs about Vijayendra coincide with talk of the BJP central leadership easing Yediyurappa out of the CM’s post in the next few months into a “margdarshak” role – its parking lot for leaders above 75 years of age.
However, a BJP MLA said, “Nothing is likely to happen until the Bihar elections. There has to be a plan to rehabilitate Yediyurappa first, since he too, is a mass leader.”
Yediyurappa’s popularity, in fact, is the main reason for the party to not rush into action against him. In 2011, after he was forced to resign as CM, Yediyurappa had floated his own party, which was instrumental in sinking the BJP in the 2013 Assembly polls. He had returned to the BJP fold in 2014 after Narendra Modi, by then the BJP’s Prime Minister pick, had sought him out.
But the corruption allegations could make it easier for the BJP. “If these become a big issue, the leadership can use them to get Yediyurappa to step aside without hurting the sentiments of the Lingayat community,” a legislator said.
Yediyurappa and Vijayendra have denied the charges. In February, Vijayendra had said, “This is being spread as part of efforts to curb my political growth.” Speaking in Delhi on September 18, Yediyurappa said, “It is natural for people to become intolerant of those who are growing politically. Vijayendra has not interfered for a moment (in the state administration).”
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