BENGALURU: Keen on a leadership change, but wary of the possible dent to its electoral prospects if it antagonises B S Yediyurappa, the central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is said to be pushing for an amicable and smooth transition of power in the State.Sources in the party’s central leadership suggest that with the next assembly election due in Karnataka in two years’ time, the party believes that it is time to relieve Yediyurappa of his post as Chief Minister and bring in a new face, but without angering its Lingayat vote bank. Efforts, it is said, are being made to coax him to voluntarily give up the post as part of a ‘natural restructuring process’ so that new leadership can emerge. The BJP’s central leadership is hoping to pull off a Uttarakhand and Assam-like power transition in Karnataka, Gujarat and Haryana in succession to also avoid giving an impression that one mass leader is being targeted.
The last time Yediyurappa was forced to quit as CM and humiliated, he broke away from the party and fought assembly elections from the Karnataka Janata Paksha, eating into a big chunk of BJP’s votes and reducing its number to an abysmal 40 seats and vote share lesser than the JDS.“Keshubhai Patel too was a mass leader, but Narendra Modi replaced him as Gujarat CM because the party needed a new face. The party has an unwritten age limit rule of 75 years, but in Yediyurappa’s case, that has been bent and broken. The party welcomed him back and made him the State unit president and then Chief Minister for his tremendous work, but it is now time for him to go and allow new leadership,” said a national executive functionary.
Party legislators in Karnataka too believe that Yediurappa does not enjoy the loyalty and following within the party that he had in 2013. “His age apart, how many MLAs will walk out of the party today if he breaks away? In 2013, the party’s central leadership was different, but now it is stronger. Yediyurappa too understands that his health, age and appeal are not the same as in 2013,” a Karnataka unit functionary said. A host of names, many second-rung leaders, are doing the rounds as replacement to Yediyurappa. From Murugesh Nirani and Basavaraj Bommai - whom Yediyurappa is said to be batting for - to C T Ravi, Sunil Kumar and Arvind Bellad, whom Union Minister Pralhad Joshi is said to be lobbying for, many are in line.
While murmurs of a leadership change arise now and then in Karnataka, sources suggest that this time around, a solid plan is in place and its execution will take place over the next two months. “Nothing will change overnight. Talks are under way for an amicable, honourable exit. Yediyurappa has his terms and the high command has its own,” a BJP leader said. Sources suggest that the party believes now is the right time for a change of leadership, since it will give them two years to mitigate any adverse effect. “Once a change is effected, the first six months will be all about work, work and work. The next six months will be about public perception building and the rest of the year will be a build-up to the election,” the leader added.
While allegations of nepotism, corruption, bias in fund allocation, etc., have been made against Yediyurappa and his son B Y Vijayendra by those within the party in the open as well as behind closed doors, the central leadership is said to be more concerned over the indecisiveness of the government and dent in public perception. “What message does it send out when BJP loses gram panchayat elections in the CM’s backyard of Shivamogga? Maski was a clear indication that even the Lingayats didn’t vote for us. It was with great difficulty that we won the Basavakalyan Assembly and Belagavi Parliamentary bypoll. Above all of this is the impression a government gives when it changes cabinet portfolios of ministers three times in five days. The indecisiveness is hurting our public image,” a national functionary added.ww