When BJP formed its first full majority government at the center in 2014, the regional satraps who had supported Modi’s ascension to power were expecting to be suitably rewarded.
So did BS Yeddiyurappa, the Karnataka strongman who had romped home by a comfortable margin from his hometown, Shivamogga.
For the first BJP chief minister beyond the Vindhiyas, the recent turn of events had been swift and rewarding. Just six months back, he had returned to the party he quit in 2012 after a protracted battle with a powerful section in Delhi which was seen to be sympathetic towards former union minister Ananth Kumar.
Having displayed prowess at inflicting electoral damage to BJP’s prospects, the Lingayat leader had to be acknowledged and suitably rehabilitated.
After a big Lok Sabha victory, a ministerial assignment in Delhi beckoned. At least the supporters and well-wishers thought so. BSY getting Rural Development or Agriculture Ministry was the general buzz.
A few days before the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi’s first cabinet, an emissary from the top party leadership met BSY in Bengaluru. The message from the party high command was clear: it would not be possible to induct BSY in the union council of ministers this time around. The reason: the pending corruption cases against the former CM.
This outright rejection might have evoked a sharp reaction from any other politician hoping to claim his share in the political pie. BS Yeddiyurappa, however, stayed very calm. He did not even utter a word of protest to the emissary. Nor betray any signs of angst or hurt. BSY weighed in his options and resolved to survive and fight another day.
BJP though compensated the Lingayat leader four years later when the JD(S)- Congress coalition government led by HD Kumaraswamy was toppled by engineering defections. Despite having overstepped the 75-year threshold set by the party, BJP made an exception in nominating Yediyurappa as the chief minister yet again.
However, this appointment was deemed to be temporary in nature from the very beginning. Primarily because it did not settle the leadership issue in the state BJP. Undoubtedly, BSY was and remains the tallest leader in the party. But the new cabinet did not usher in a generational shift in the party.
The moot question was whether BJP was willing to contest the 2023 assembly polls under Yeddiyurappa’s stewardship?
If not, then the next logical issue was to find a suitable successor and give him or her ample time and opportunity to turn things around. That would require two years at the very least.
Which is why, jostling for the top post among the wannabe CM’s started about six months back once Delhi took an in-principal decision to replace BSY. Senior ministers got a whiff of an imminent change. They openly challenged chief minister’s authority by levelling serious allegations of corruption against Yeddiyurappa and his children. Interestingly, all this while, no disciplinary action was ever initiations against the rebels.
The BJP wanted BSY to relinquish office, but the offer to do so- the party felt- should come from the chief minister himself. The top leadership did not want to repeat the past mistake of being seen to be pushing the septuagenarian leader to the brink and invite a backlash from the politically dominant Lingayat community.
Lessons from the past had been learnt. On his earlier exit from the party, BSY had successfully mobilized clan-sympathies to damage BJP’s prospects.
To bring about a smooth transition of power, once again the services of the same emissary who had convinced BSY on being denied a place in Modi cabinet were pressed into action.
Messages were delayed back and forth. A post-retirement plan was worked out. The severance package had to take into account political future of BSY’s children who are now in active politics.
It was only after some concrete assurance was delivered, that the chief minister travelled to Delhi in the second week of July to meet the top BJP brass. An honorable exit was agreed upon by the two sides.
Interestingly, reports of CM offering to quit cropped up in the media even as Yeddiyurappa was doing the rounds of BJP leaders in the national capital.
Frustrated by repeated procrastinations, the party it seemed had decided to bring a swift closure to the festering leadership issues in Karnataka.