SHORTLY AFTER delivering an emotional speech to mark the second anniversary of his government, when he recalled the days of travelling on cycle and going on “padayatra” to build a base for the BJP in a state where it had none, B S Yediyurappa resigned on Monday afternoon, ending several months of speculation over his position as Chief Minister of Karnataka.
The BJP national leadership is expected to pick a “younger replacement” for the 78-year-old Lingayat leader in the next few days by balancing the demands of caste, administrative experience and the need to “fulfil the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi” and the BJP.
Yediyurappa will be the caretaker Chief Minister until “alternate arrangements are made”, Governor Thawarchand Gehlot said in a notification after accepting the resignation and dissolving the Council of Ministers.
On Monday afternoon, after driving across to Raj Bhavan with several ministers and supporters to submit his resignation, Yediyurappa said he was stepping down of his own volition.
“There has been no coercion from anyone in Delhi. I voluntarily decided to resign on the occasion of the second anniversary of the government. No one has compelled me to resign — neither the PM, the (BJP) national president (J P Nadda) or (Home Minister) Amit Shah. I am leaving with the dream of bringing the BJP back to power again,” he said.
The buzz around Yediyurappa’s resignation started growing from January and reached a peak after July 16 when he met Modi, Shah and Nadda in Delhi. These meetings took place after he had agreed to quit amid rumblings of dissatisfaction with his leadership and allegations of misuse of his office for corruption by family members, BJP sources said.
Yediyurappa took the option of an “honorable exit” offered by the party and has offered to use his standing as a mass leader in Karnataka to work to keep the BJP in power, sources said.
Thanking Modi, Shah and Nadda, Yediyurappa said: “They have not given any position to anyone who has crossed 75 years of age but out of respect they allowed me to remain in office as CM for two years. I will remain in politics and will work together with others to bring the BJP to power again. I am not retiring from politics. The party has given me a lot of position and power. Probably no other leader has been given so many benefits by the BJP.”
Yediyurappa, however, refused to name his successor. “It is left to the high command. Whoever they pick to be the CM will receive our full support,” he said.
He also said he was not looking at becoming a Governor at this point of his political career. “I was asked to come to Delhi and become a Minister when A B Vajpayee was the PM and I had refused. I am not thinking of becoming a Governor now. I will work for the party and am not interested in any position of power,” he said.
Yediyurappa became Chief Minister for a fourth time in July 2019 after toppling the 14-month JD(S)-Congress coalition government by triggering the defection of 17 MLAs. Following his resignation, he said the interests of these MLAs, who became Ministers after joining the BJP, would be protected by the new Chief Minister.
Yediyurappa’s exit is the fourth time that his tenure as Chief Minister has been curtailed before the end of a full term of five years.
In 2007 he was CM for a week but had to quit after his coalition partner the JD(S) refused to extend support. In 2011, he was forced to quit after three years following allegations linked to an illegal mining investigation. And in 2018, he quit after three days because the BJP could not muster up a simple majority after the state polls.
On Monday, Yediyurappa’s final speech as Chief Minister, during which he was seen wiping away tears while announcing his resignation, was marked by references to his efforts to build a political foundation for the BJP in the state.
“At a time when we had no one who would talk about us and we could not gather even 50 to 100 people, I walked from Basavana Bagewadi, Basavakalyan, Banwasi and from Shimoga. I carried out padayatra to build the party with a few others,” Yediyurappa said.
Referring to “Vajpayee’s offer” to join the Central Government, he said: “I told him to allow me to build the party. At that time when Vajpayee, Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi travelled in the state, not more than 200 to 400 people would gather to support. I travelled to the four corners of the state and with the grace of God, two became four and today the BJP is in power in the state,” he said.
“In Shimoga, when there was no car to travel around I cycled around the district with workers. When there was no one in the state, I built this party. Today, the party has reached great heights and is the foremost in the whole country,” he said.
The BJP veteran, however, expressed regret that he had been unable to bring the BJP to power on its own majority over the last five decades.
“I travelled like a man with wheels for legs and brought the party to power in 2008. We did not have a full majority and we had to run the government by drawing the support of others. Though we have had the opportunity to win 115 to 120 seats on our own we failed due to our own mistakes. I am confident that in the coming days we will be able to get a full majority,” Yediyurappa told his BJP colleagues.