Removing Yediyurappa was the easier part, BJP now faces tough task of finding his successor

The final choice will be made after two observers, BJP Karnataka in-charge Arun Singh and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, visit the state and hold a meeting with MLAs.

Illustration by Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint
Illustration by Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint

New Delhi: Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s term came to an abrupt end Monday, bringing curtains down on an era when BSY dominated the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state. While the BJP high command elicited the move through pressure for months, the party is now left with the unenviable task of finding a successor to the four-time CM.

According to BJP sources, the high command has started the process to find the next Karnataka CM, with Home Minister Amit Shah holding a meeting with national party president J.P. Nadda in the Parliament. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, one of the contenders, was also present to brainstorm on the choice.

The final choice will be made after BJP’s Karnataka in-charge Arun Singh and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan — two observers deputed in the meeting to smoothen the transition — visit the state and hold a meet with the MLAs.

“But it may take time as the choice of leadership is not clear,” said a source. “The first step in transition has been achieved, now BJP has to look at many factors before deciding a new leader, knowing the challenges ahead.”

According to sources, Pradhan may meet the MLAs in Bengaluru Tuesday, and seek the advice of Yediyurappa too. “Then a new leader will be chosen in the presence of observers,” said a second source. 

“The first priority was Yediyurappa’s resignation, now that it has happened, the second job is to select a successor who can fit in BSY’s shoes. For this, consultation has started,” said the source.

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Caste factor

A senior BJP leader told ThePrint about the caste arithmetic that’s playing out behind the decision, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah’s risk appetite will decide the extent of experimentation.

“The selection will depend on how the PM and Amit Shah see the future of politics in Karnataka… Yediyurappa is ageing, and there is no tall leader like him from the Lingayat community but we can’t leave the largest Lingayat support base alone. We have seen the 2013 results when we were reduced to the third party in the assembly,” said the BJP leader.

“But we have to move ahead making plans for the next 10-15 years. We experimented with Sadananda Gowda, a Vokkaliga leader, earlier but it didn’t work. But today we have the advantage of PM Modi, who has a pan-state appeal. We have legroom to experiment but it all depends on how much risk we want to take for 2023 and 2024,” the leader added.

According to BJP sources, the party might choose four deputy CMs, one from each community — Dalits, Lingayats, Vokkaliga and Kuruba. Presently, there are three deputy CMs from Lingayat, Dalit and Vokkaliga castes.

A senior BJP functionary told ThePrint, “There are many aspirants but it has to be a person who can fit in ‘big shoes’ of Yediyurappa.”

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Probable candidates

The party could look at several options from the Lingayat community, which constitutes 17 per cent of Karnataka’s population and has supported the BJP since the Veerendra Patil-led Congress government fell in 1990.

According to sources, the Lingayat leaders being looked at as potential CMs are — Mining and Geology Minister and businessman Murugesh Nirani, who has a good equation with Amit Shah; Arvind Bellad, who is a known Yediyurappa detractor, but a newcomer in politics; Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai, the son of late ex-CM S.R. Bommai, and a known Yediyurappa baiter; and Basangouda Patil Yatnal, who was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet and has a strong RSS connect.

While Murugesh and Bellad are new faces, the latter’s lack of experience could be an impediment, said the sources.

Deputy CM Laxman Savadi, another Lingayat leader, is also believed to be a strong contender.

Two Brahmin faces on the shortlist are Union minister Pralhad Joshi, a former state BJP president, who was groomed under the late Ananth Kumar, and now-national general secretary B.L. Santhosh.

“As Modi-Shah are known for surprises, the BJP high command might pick a surprise name as the successor of a giant like Yediyurappa. But his path will not be easy knowing the fractured mandate in the state, groupism in the party, and most importantly, for lacking BSY’s stature to get community support for 2023 polls,” added a source quoted above.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

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