Amid Yediyurappa Exit Buzz, A Look at Possible Contenders for Karnataka CM’s Chair

Amid Yediyurappa Exit Buzz, A Look at Possible Contenders for Karnataka CM’s Chair BS Yediyurappa will soon be replaced. (Credit: PTI)

Just a few days after BS Yediyurappa’s visit to Delhi triggered speculation of resignation, political corridors in Karnataka are abuzz with rumours that the Chief Minister will deliver his farewell speech at the Legislative Party meeting on July 26. While Yediyurappa had earlier denied resignation rumours, sources said he will make the move official during a visit to the national capital in the first week of August.

As the rumours grow stronger, focus is shifting to who will succeed Yediyurappa. In a leaked audio clip, state BJP chief Nalin Kumar Kateel is purportedly heard telling an aide in Tulu that the next CM will be “someone from Delhi”. In June, leaders had demanded that if and when there is a leadership change, the next CM should be from the Lingayat community.

Sources in Panchamasali Lingayat mutts said they too have submitted a list of potential names to the state in-charge. Murugesh R Nirani, Aravind Bellad and Basanagouda Patil Yatnal are among those on the purported list.

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Murugesh Nirani, a tall Panchamasali Lingayat leader and BJP loyalist, is also a businessman who runs sugar and ethanol factories in north Karnataka. Union Home Minister Amit Shah had visited his sugar factory earlier this year while touring the state. Amid rumours of leadership change in the state, Nirani visited Varanasi last week where PM Narendra Modi inaugurated several projects.

Another name on the purported list, Aravind Bellad is a young face whose name was doing the rounds for the CM’s post until a few weeks ago. Aravind is the son of veteran RSS and BJP leader Chandrakant Bellad. He enjoys good support from the RSS and is also said to be close to the party high command. He has made several trips to Delhi during the turmoil in the state unit.

Basanagouda Patil Yatnal is seen as having an outside chance of being the next CM as he belongs to the Lingayat community but from the larger and backward sub-caste Panchamsali. He was at the forefront of an agitation earlier this year by the Panchamsali Lingayats seeking recognition as a backward caste group. Yatnal is also a former Union minister, who was believed to have been handpicked by Shah.

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Yatnal, however, has denied being in the race. “I am not in any race. The PM will pick a leader who is honest, pro-Hindu and capable of bringing the party to power in the next polls as CM,” he said.

If Yediyurappa is to give his own list of recommended names to the national leadership, Basavaraj Bommai would be a strong contender. Son of former chief minister SR Bommai, Basavaraj Bommai is also from the Lingayat community.

If Nalin Kumar Kateel’s purported hunch of a “Delhi-based leader” is anything to go by, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, BJP national organising secretary BL Santhosh, and BJP national general secretary CT Ravi could be on the list of potential successors. While the first two are Brahmin leaders, Ravi is from the Vokkaliga community.

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