What is it that Karnataka BJP state president KS Eshwarappa is growing stronger day by day? In the last few years, Chief Ministers have got changed in the state, thanks to the machinations of former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa. But Eshwarappa remains untouched: his rapport with the Sangh Parivar leaders and his Kuruba community tag helped him to survive Yeddyurappa’s whims. He was once a minister under Yeddyurappa for about one and a half years, but left the government on his own to head the party in the state. Yeddyurappa had, on many occasions, complained that Eshwarappa was not cooperative and never wanted to work in the government. But all that he could do was to whine and tolerate Eshwarappa who is now back as the Deputy Chief Minister under Jagadish Shettar.
While Yeddyurappa is out of power and seemingly on his way out of the party, it is believed that Eshwarappa is aiming the chair of Chief Minister. He is emerging as the rallying point in the faction-ridden party, enjoying the backing of the party high command. So, despite the BJP’s ‘one man, one post’ policy, Eshwarappa holds the two posts of Deputy Chief Minister and party’s state president. And he is utilising his positions quite well in his running feud with Yeddyurappa. He took disciplinary action against Yeddyurappa’s staunch supporter V Dhananjay Kumar; and has been vocal in his opposition to Yeddyurappa and his tactics. Chief Minister Shettar too seems to be working in tandem with the party chief to keep Yeddyurappa and his loyalists at bay. They recently gave an additional portfolio to Balachandra Jarkiholi, an arch rival of the Yeddyurappa camp. According to a political analyst, the party high command is hardly left with any option but to support Eshwarappa at a juncture when the party is going through a turbulent phase in an election year. His Kuruba background comes handy, as he could well be the best challenger to Congress leader Siddaramaiah who is touted as the ‘undisputed’ leader of the community — the third largest after the Lingayats and the Vokkaligas.
That, however, does not mean that the party will contest the elections under his leadership. The BJP and Eshwarappa have made it clear that they will contest under the collective leadership. In fact, the BJP was looking for a leader who can head the party in the election year. Given the current state of affairs, they could not zero in on any leader who is acceptable to all the factions.
So it seems that the party is waiting for Yeddyurappa to announce his next political move — launching his party — before the BJP firm up their plans for the elections. But until then, Eshwarappa who has grown in stature, and was in the race for top post in the government when DV Sadananda Gowda was replaced by Shettar in July this year, seems to be making most of the situation.