The political crisis in Karnataka has been turning into a caste drama with Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa displaying his clout with staunch backing from the powerful Lingayat community amid escalating speculations over his resignation. For BJP, losing Yediyurappa's stronghold is equal to losing the Lingayat community- the strong vote bank for the Central ruling party that pillars the party's reign in the state.
In what has become a moment of hitting the wickets without disturbing the stumps, the BJP must have a vivid strategy in Karnataka as any situation of collapse in the power would make the party lose the only ruling state in South India. For the past few days, the state is under constant talks that one of the oldest Chief Ministers in India Yediyurappa (78) would be resigning from the post on July 26 -when he completes his two years in office.
The veteran BJP leader is surfaced with an unprecedented scale of dissidents within the party as he has been accused of indulging in corruption. Several disappointed state leaders had also accused the Chief Minister's family of interfering in the state government's administration with the claims that his son Vijayendra has begun to influence the administration. Another section of the leaders in the BJP is demanding his resignation with his age factor and they say that his age is not comforting him at his duties and its imperative for the party to introduce a new Chief Ministerial face and build the base in the state ahead of the assembly polls in 2023.
Amid the anticipations of creating history by becoming the only Chief Minister in India not to serve a single five-year term in the office even though he was elected as the Chief Minister three times, Yediyurappa had on last week toured Delhi and met with the BJP's Central leadership including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and BJP National President JP Nadda. During his meeting with the Prime Minister, Yediyurappa had offered to resign as the Chief Minister of Karnataka citing ill health.
He also conditioned the BJP leadership to provide a huge role in the party for his son Vijayendra by accepting his resignation. However, Yediyurappa had on the record maintained that he is not going to resign and dismissed the reports of his resignations as rumours. But, his remarks didn't give more weight as the speculations over a change of guard are yet to be mitigated and it has rather fueled when an audio conversation from a BJP leader was leaked. In the leaked audio, Karnataka BJP President Nalin Kumar Kateel was heard saying that the Chief Minister will soon be replaced.
If BJP has decided to replace Yediyurappa, the party must face the Himalayan task of retaining the vote bank in picking Yediyurappa's successor. The reports close to the developments say that Yediyurappa will tender his resignation as the Chief Minister after completing two years in office on July 26. While leaving, the Chief Minister would keep two demands to the BJP Central leadership - to elect his successor from the Lingayat community and to elevate his son to a top role.
However, the BJP leadership has other plans too and while considering picking a replacement from the Lingayat community, it is not planning to completely rule out leaders from other communities and there may be cabinet expansion in Karnataka to accommodate the rebellion leaders. Some of the probable names who would succeed Yediyurappa include Prahlad Joshi - a Brahmin leader from the Lingayat community who is currently serving as the Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and a leader close to Modi and BJP leadership, Sadanandha Gowda - former Union Minister and key BJP leader in Karnataka, CT Ravi - BJP's National General Secretary and a prominent Vokkaliga face of the BJP in the state.
Ravi was made the party's in-charge of Tamil Nadu ahead of the 2021 assembly polls and he is known for his hard-line Hindutva politics. Arvind Bellard, a two-time MLA from Hubli- Dharwad Assembly constituency, is also on the list of possible successors to Yediyurappa as the Chief Minister of Karnataka. According to reports, the party's high command would be finalizing Yediyurappa's successor within July 26 and on the other hand, the incumbent Chief Minister has been meeting the sheers and religious leaders in Karnataka for the past few days.
The religious leaders had warned the BJP against changing the Chief Minister. On Tuesday, Yediyurappa has met with the chiefs of mutts to display a clear message to the RSS and BJP that he has got the backing of religious leaders. Lingayat community, which comprises 16 per cent of the state's population, is the BJP's strong vote base in the state and the community is completely backing and supporting Yediyurappa.
The religious leaders have warned the BJP against any move of removing Yediyurappa from power. One of the religious leaders said, "Any government needs to be independent. But if the Central government keeps interfering, no Chief Minister can do his best. If the Chief Minister is changed often, it is difficult for officers to work. The Central government must consider this seriously and allow the Chief Minister to work." As Yediyurappa is under a potent roof, the BJP would face huge challenges in replacing him and meeting his demand.