BENGALURU: Former chief minister B S Yediyurappa on Wednesday vowed to bring the BJP back to power in Karnataka and to strengthen it in the rest of south India, following his appointment to the highest decision-making body of the party ahead of 2023 state assembly polls.
The appointment seemed like it had in some way brought back the glory that the state BJP strongman enjoyed during his heydays in power, along with the rare smile on his face, as many party leaders, legislators and ministers, including Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai made a beeline to his residence to congratulate and greet him.
The BJP on Wednesday announced the appointment of the 79-year-old leader to its Parliamentary Board and Central Election Committee.
"I have been given a huge responsibility by the party's leadership, I had never expected any position. After resigning as Chief Minister, my only aim was to bring the BJP back to power in Karnataka. When I spoke to the Prime Minister, he asked to focus on other south Indian states too," Yediyurappa said.
Speaking to reporters here flanked by Bommai and several party leaders, the former chief minister said he accepts the responsibilities given to him with utmost humility and will travel extensively, and strive towards bringing BJP back to power in Karnataka and strengthen it in other south Indian states.
"I'm the best example to say that BJP will not leave its active ordinary karyakarta. I don't believe that politics and public life are areas of retirement and our leaders have attested it. I will work for the party and organisation till my last breath," he added.
According to Yediyurappa's office, he spoke to Modi over phone thanking him, and the Prime Minister in turn said his service was required to strengthen the party and bring it to power not only in Karnataka, but throughout south India.
The veteran leader had resigned as Chief Minister on July 26, 2021.
Age was seen as a primary factor for his exit from the top job, with an unwritten rule in the BJP of keeping out those above 75 years from elected offices; also, the party high command wanted to make way for fresh leadership ahead of the assembly polls.
Many in the party circles feel that it is an attempt by the BJP leadership to send out a message that it still has high regard for the veteran leader and was keen to utilise his experience and mentorship, amid allegations by some sections, especially opposition Congress about the Lingayat strongman being sidelined.
The move by the party leadership gains even more significance, as it comes following Yediyurappa recently signalling the end of his innings in electoral politics by stating that he will vacate his Shikaripura assembly seat for son B Y Vijayendra, if the party fields him in the 2023 state assembly polls.
Following the announcement about retiring from electoral politics, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had met Yediyurappa earlier this month during his visit to Bengaluru, and is said to have held discussions in this regard.
Sources said the leadership wanted to ensure that Yediyurappa doesn't feel sidelined, as it fears adverse implications for the party in the polls, in the event of the veteran leader choosing to remain inactive.
It also puts Yediyurappa at an "advantage", as he looks to secure the political future of his younger son Vijayendra, his political heir apparent.
Elder son B Y Raghavendra is currently the Member of Parliament from Shivamogga.
"It is certainly an elevation for Yediyurappa when everyone was expecting the end of his politics. The party certainly realises his need and strength, and wants to utilise it. The leadership wants to keep him in good books and reap as much benefit as it can in favour of BJP during the assembly polls," a BJP functionary said.
By projecting that Yediyurappa is being sidelined by BJP, the Congress had planned to attract votes of Lingayats, the dominant community which forms the strong vote base of the saffron party in the state, in their favour, a BJP leader said, "Now, by inducting Yediyurappa into the top decision-making bodies of the party, it has been completely outwitted," the party leader said.
Though Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai is also a Lingayat, the sway Yediyurappa holds over the community cannot be disregarded, a leader said, adding, "He is still the tallest leader not only from the community, but he is also a mass leader."
Responding to a question regarding the party looking for his service, despite him crossing 75 years, Yediyurappa said the BJP has given him all kinds of position and respect, and had never sidelined or neglected him.
"Now, it has given me a new responsibility, keeping faith, when I was working like an ordinary karyakarta. God has given me strength to travel across the state and country for 10 more years. I will work to strengthen the party with other leaders, until my hands and legs are strong," he added.
Asked whether he has been given the new positions to pacify and boost him, so that he campaigns for the party, Yediyurappa said such a question does not arise at all, and that the leadership was aware that he is working without expecting any position.
"I will fulfill the expectations that the leadership has in me. You will see how the current will pass, how the environment will change in a few days. Some people (Congress leaders Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar) are in illusion that they have already become CM, they will be disappointed," he said.
To a question about the Congress stating that the BJP has no future as Yediyurappa has exited, he said, "What will they say now? It is certain Modi will become PM once again in 2024 and in Karnataka, we will get more than 140 seats and come back to power. You will soon see public support for us."
Complementing the incumbent Chief Minister, Yediyurappa, in response to a question about him repeatedly highlighting on collective leadership despite the high command stating that Bommai will be the face, said, "There is no difference in it, Bommai and collective leadership is the same as we are all one. Who is our leader? It is CM Bommai. We will travel the state keeping him at the front."
Congratulating Yediyurappa and thanking the party leadership, CM Bommai said the veteran leader's appointment will boost the morale of Karnataka BJP karyakartas and rejuvenate them for the upcoming assembly elections.