From a government clerk and a hardware store owner, Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yediyurappa became the chief minister of Karnataka four times, but never completed a full term even as he navigated the choppy waters of politics with all the tricks of the trade. This time too he was not allowed to complete his full term.
Yediyurappa’s tenure as CM includes seven days during his first term in November 2007; three years and two months from May 2008; for three days in May 2018, following the assembly polls, which was his third term; and finally for exactly two years since July 26, 2019, his fourth tenure.
He began his electoral politics as Purasabha president in Shikaripura, was first elected to the Legislative Assembly from Shikaripura in 1983 and went on to win eight times.
A diehard RSS swayamsevak, was born on February 27, 1943, at Bookanakere in K R Pet Taluk of Mandya district to Siddalingappa and Puttathayamma.
Fondly called “Raja Huli” (King Tiger) by his followers, he joined the RSS when he was just 15, became an active politician with Jana Sangh, the BJP’s forerunner, in his hometown Shikaripura in Shivamogga district. He became the Jana Sangh’s Shikaripura taluk chief in the early 1970s.
He was first elected to the Legislative Assembly from Shikaripura in 1983 and went on to win eight times from there.
Widely credited for BJP’s growth in Karnataka, along with being party’s state unit president, he has also served as opposition leader in the Legislative Assembly, member of Legislative Council, and also member of parliament.
A Bachelor of Arts, he was jailed during the Emergency, worked as a clerk in the social welfare department before taking up a similar job at a rice mill in Shikaripura before he set up his hardware shop in Shivamogga.
He married Maitradevi, daughter of the rice mill owner, where he worked, on March 5, 1967, and has two sons and three daughters. His wife died under mysterious circumstances.
His elder son B Y Raghavendra is a MP from the Shivamogga Lok Sabha constituency and the younger son is the BJP vice president of Karnataka. BSY’s weakness is Vijayendra who wields considerable influence over his father and money matters. He is a pushy leader, interferes in all major projects and is allegedly corrupt.
Yediyurappa wields considerable influence over the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, which is estimated to form about 16 per cent of the state’s population, and is considered to be the BJPs core support base in the state.
He could have landed in the hot seat in 2004 when the BJP emerged as the single largest party, but the Congress and JD(S) of former prime minister H D Deve Gowda formed an alliance, and a government was formed under Dharam Singh.
Known for his political acumen, Yediyurappa joined hands with H D Kumaraswamy, Deve Gowda’s son, in 2006 and brought down the Dharam Singh government.
Under a rotational chief ministership arrangement, Kumaraswamy became the CM and Yediyurappa his deputy.
Yediyurappa became CM for the first time in November 2007 but his term lasted just seven days as Kumaraswamy reneged on a power-sharing pact and walked out of the alliance.
He became the chief minister once again after the BJP came to power in May 2008 but had to step down in July 2011 following his indictment by the then Lokayukta N Santosh Hegde in an illegal mining case.
In the 2008 polls, Yediyurappa had led the party to victory, and the first BJP government in the south was formed under him, with the help of “Operation Kamala” (Operation Lotus) -- an alleged attempt of the BJP to engineer defection of opposition legislators to ensure the stability of the government.
On October 15, 2011, he surrendered before the Lokayukta court after it issued a warrant against him in connection with alleged land scams, and was in jail for a week.
Sulking after having been made to quit, Yediyurappa broke his decades-long association with the BJP and formed the Karnataka Janata Paksha. However, he failed to make the KJP a force to reckon with in state politics but wrecked the BJP’s chances of retaining power in the 2013 polls, winning six seats and polling about 10 per cent votes.
As Yediyurappa faced an uncertain future and the BJP looked for a leader with a formidable reputation, he was called back leading to the KJP’s merger with the BJP on January 9, 2014.
In the Lok Sabha election, the BJP won 19 of the state’s 28 seats, a remarkable turnaround for the party which had secured only 19.9 per cent votes in the Assembly polls just a year ago leading to the fall of its first government.
Notwithstanding the corruption taint, Yediyurappa’s status and clout grew in the BJP.
The BJP declared him its chief ministerial candidate in the 2018 assembly polls, ignoring the taunts by the Congress.
As the polls threw up a hung verdict, with no party getting a clear majority in the 225-member House (including Speaker), the Governor invited Yediyurappa, the leader of the single largest party, to form the government and gave him 15 days to prove the majority.
However, the Supreme Court asked him to prove the majority in the House within 24 hours following a plea by the Congress-JD(S) challenging the Governor’s decision to invite the BJP to form the government.
The three-day-old BJP government collapsed on May 19, 2018, minutes before the scheduled trust vote, with him resigning in a tame anti-climax and hours later Kumaraswamy, the chief ministerial candidate of the newly formed JD(S)-Congress alliance, was invited to form the government.
He again engineered defections from the Congress and the JD(S) to form a government by rewarding the turncoats. That was the starting point of Yediyurappa’s downfall.
With such a chequered political history behind him, Yediyurappa is likely to chart his future the way he deems fit, not under anybody’s command.
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