Bengaluru: The ‘go-Yediyurappa-go’ political drama in Karnataka took a ‘spiritual’ twist with 35 heads of Lingayat mutts meeting the Chief Minister Tuesday, who asked him not to vacate his chair. The seers have promised to come back with bigger numbers to mount more pressure before the July 26 meeting of all BJP MLAs where Yediyurappa is likely to announce his resignation.
The seers, who got solid support financially and otherwise from Yediyurappa in the past two years, have now sent a message to the BJP high command and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
The Lingayat community is the BJP's big support base in the state and the seers have warned the BJP against any move to dislodge the 78-year-old, who also belongs to the community.
Veera Someshwara Shivacharya Swami said any move to replace Yediyurappa will have "big consequences" for the BJP. It is a veiled pointer that the BJP will face a rout in the local bodies and MLC elections over the next 18 months before the 2023 Assembly elections.
“The BJP in Karnataka will be finished,” warned a leader.
"Friction is common in politics, let anyone say anything, but we have confidence that B S Yediyurappa will continue as the Chief Minister and complete the term. If there are any shortcomings in this, it will have big consequences for the party," Veera Someshwara Shivacharya Swami was quoted as saying by PTI.
Apart from the seers, Yediyurappa received support from some unexpected quarters. Congress member and former water resources minister MB Patil asked BJP to treat Yediyurappa with respect. “BJP may face the wrath of Lingayats if they (party) ill-treat a tall leader of the community. BJP should value his contribution and treat him with dignity,” he tweeted.
Another senior Congress MLA, Shamanur Shivashankarappa, who is the president of the Veerashaiva Lingayat Mahasabha, met Yediyurappa. “BJP will be wiped out if Yediyurappa is disturbed. He has built the party from scratch, and the Lingayat community wants him to continue. The Veerashaiva Sabha will back him,” he said.
"They (BJP leadership) should remember history -- S Nijalingappa, Veerendra Patil, J H Patel and S R Bommai (all former Chief Ministers). They will destroy themselves if they attempt such a thing," PTI quoted Shivashankarappa as saying.
Prominent Lingayat seer Jagadguru Prasanna Renuka Shivacharya Swami of the Rambhapuri mutt in Balehonnur also warned the party against replacing Yediyurappa. “He is the tallest leader of the party and the community. Allow him to complete his tenure,” he said in Raichur.
But after the meeting with the seers, Yediyurappa said he will go by what the ‘leaders’ (read PM Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and party president JP Nadda) had to say.
Sources say that Yediyurappa will resign after the July 26 meeting and the seers are putting pressure to have a favourable Lingayat leader at the helm as the Chief Minister – a leader chosen by Yediyurappa.
“It’s just a matter of time…He (Yediyurappa) wanted the party leadership to choose a successor but it will be with his consent,” said a source. “The central leadership seems to have left it to the Chief Minister to decide the time of his exit,” said a senior party leader.
Another leader asked the BJP high command to ensure that Yediyurappa’s exit is not only “graceful but beautiful”.
Meanwhile, senior BJP leader Basavaraj Patil Yatnal said that the party’s central leadership will soon pick a new CM who is “honest, pro-Hindu, and capable of bringing the BJP back to power”.
Incidentally, Yatnal, a former Union minister and MLA from Bijapur in north Karnataka comes from the Lingayat community — like Yediyurappa — but from a larger and backward sub-caste, Panchamsali.
The other names doing the rounds are Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, BJP national organising secretary B L Santhosh — both are Brahmins — and party national general secretary C T Ravi, who comes from the Vokkaliga community. But the BJP will not dare hand over the baton to a Brahmin – a move that is sure to upset the Lingayats.
Also in the race are businessman-politician and state Mining Minister Murugesh Nirani and young MLA Arvind Bellad (son of a veteran RSS and BJP leader).
Meanwhile, in a sign that he is on his way out, Yediyurappa reportedly plans to host a lunch for senior officials and his secretariat staff on July 25, a day before a meeting of the BJP legislature party. This has fuelled further speculation in political circles that his time in office may have come to an end.
Yediyurappa also intends to organise a lunch for BJP MLAs after the meeting, followed by a photo session in the Vidhana Soudha. A few days before that, on July 23 or 24, he is expected to visit his home district, Shivamogga, to inaugurate a slew of projects.
In another significant move, Karnataka governor Thawar Chand Geholt called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on Monday.