Updated: July 28, 2021 10:29:55 am
Ahead of the 2013 elections to the Karnataka Assembly, when B S Yediyurappa quit the BJP following his ouster from the Chief Minister’s post, Basavaraj Bommai did not follow him to join the veteran leader’s breakaway Karnataka Janata Party.
At the time, in an interview with The Indian Express after campaigning for the KJP in the Shiggaon in north Karnataka, which is Bommai’s constituency, Yediyurappa had hit out at his protege for deserting him.
“He kept on dilly-dallying and in the end, did not come with me and did not allow others to come with me too. He has betrayed me in that way. He ranks number one for betrayals,” Yediyurappa had said.
On Tuesday, eight years later, it was Yediyurappa who proposed the name of Bommai to replace him as Chief Minister of Karnataka — a position he had vacated in tears on Monday.
Bommai, who has no roots in the BJP’s ideology, is a politician with socialist moorings who followed in the footsteps of his father S R Bommai, a leader of the Janata Party, who was made the Chief Minister by Ramakrishna Hedge in 1988. That government was dismissed unceremoniously — leading to the famous S R Bommai vs Union of India case which laid down norms for ascertaining majority and curbed dismissals of state governments.
According to BJP insiders, a key factor that has worked in favour of Bommai Jr is his accommodative nature — some call it “too acquiescing” — and a willingness to let bygones be bygones to achieve his goals.
They describe the Chief Minister as a calm and astute politician who is willing to deliberate at great length to understand issues before taking decisions.
The former engineer with Tata Motors is also popular with leaders across political parties in Karnataka and was drafted by Yediyurappa during his recent tenure to be Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, too, on account of his ability to bring Opposition leaders around on key issues and Bills.
On several occasions when tensions have risen in the assembly, a calm intervention by Bommai has prevented an escalation. As Home Minister, Bommai was eager to show that the state government is willing to follow policy paths laid down by the Centre, including those that would not fit into the socialist origins of his political career.
A Lingayat community member, Bommai was brought into the BJP fold by Yediyurappa ahead of the 2008 polls when his political career was at the crossroads — after the Janata Dal (United) lost political traction in Karnataka following a split in the Janata Party and the passing of key leaders like Ramakrishna Hegde, J H Patel and S R Bommai.
Barring the separation from Yediyurappa between 2012 and 2014, Bommai has been an interlocutor for the veteran leader with the BJP leadership at the Centre, a troubleshooter, a prompter and a frequent go-to man.
For the state government, Bommai has worked in the past as the Water Resources Minister and has an in-depth understanding of the water-sharing issues that Karnataka has with neighbouring states.
However, some senior officials have privately spoken about his “tendency to bend over backwards to please the party leadership”. There have also been complaints of the Home Department not being run in an effective manner in recent days with reports of corruption in the police system.
On the personal front, Bommai was in mourning a couple of weeks ago following the death of his pet dog and was pictured paying tearful tributes along with his wife and two children.
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