It’s a challenge for the party leadership in New Delhi, with none of the second-rung leaders showing enough promise to fill the old warhorse’s shoes. Yediyurappa will complete one year in office this July in his fourth innings as CM.
“Karnataka BJP minus Yediyurappa is like a square peg in a round hole. But it has become imperative for the party to find an alternative leader before he fades into the political sunset. But whoever succeeds Yediyurappa should be a Lingayat to get instant acceptance,” said a senior party functionary.
When the BJP government came to power in last July, the leadership appointed three second-rung leaders — Laxman Savadi (Lingayat) Govind Karjol (SC) and CN Ashwath Narayan (Vokkaliga) as deputy chief ministers — overlooking several seniors purportedly to groom a successor to Yediyurappa. But the trio has struggled to come out of the septuagenarian’s shadow.
There’s dissatisfaction in the party over Yediyurappa’s style of functioning. The BJP leadership, though aware of the internal bickering, is treading cautiously as its attempt more than a decade ago ended in a disaster. It’s also aware that it can ill afford to lose support of Lingayat community, its core vote bank.
Sources privy to inside developments say the central leadership has now “opened the forum” on the succession plan, keeping the 2023 assembly polls in mind. Karnataka is also significant since it’s BJP’s gateway to the south.
Sources said the party has zeroed in on a few names and things will become clear after Rajya Sabha polls on June 21. Though the names of Lingayat leaders Jagadish Shettar, V Somanna, Basavaraj Bommai and Murgesh Nirani are doing the rounds, the party still doesn’t seem convinced that they’ll be able to take forward Yediyurappa’s legacy. Two other names which have been added to the list include Vijayapura MLA Basannagouda Patil Yatnal and Dharwad West MLA Aravind Bellad as they both belong to powerful sects of the Lingayat community.
Yatnal’s strong RSS roots and his experience as Union minister may help him though his motormouth image may play spoilsport. Bellad, 50, is being perceived as the Devendra Fadnavis of Karnataka. Non-Lingayat names doing the rounds include Pralhad Joshi (Union minister) and S Suresh Kumar (both Brahmins), R Ashoka (Vokkaliga) and Aravind Limbavalli (SC), many of whom have the strong support of RSS. Yediyurappa himself is said to be pitching for his younger son BY Vijayendra, who is facing opposition’s allegations of being de-facto CM, but the question is whether he will have the backing of senior MLAs.