In the tussle between Delhi and Bengaluru over who should preside over the destiny of Karnataka, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Monday blinked first and put in his papers, drenched in tears.
But the buzz is that when he took over as CM of Karnataka, the BJP high command had made it clear that he could hold office only for two years considering his age. Hence his farewell visit to Delhi recently, where he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and party president JP Nadda.
But back in Bengaluru, Yediyurappa made it look like he had been more sinned against than sinning. It is against this backdrop that after his resignation, he went into a huddle with party MLAs supporting him. Sources say he has four plans. Plan A is to demand a prominent position for himself wherein the new CM will have to consult him; Plan B is to accommodate his son BY Vijayendra in a prominent post; Plan C is that his list of supporters be accommodated in the new Cabinet; if plan A, B and C fail, the next option would be to indirectly put the new government in trouble ahead of the crucial elections to local bodies in December that would indicate which way the political wind is blowing.
Earlier, Yediyurappa announced his resignation at a function marking his two years in office. In an emotional speech, the 78-year-old BJP leader and Lingayat strongman broke down multiple times saying that he had to go through ‘agni pareeksha’ – an obvious reference to the charges and taunts made against him and his family by a handful of detractors.
He said he was tested constantly in the two years of his fourth term - possibly his last -- given the BJP's age limit of 75 years for elected posts. Soon after, he walked over to the next-door Raj Bhavan to hand in his resignation to Governor Thawar Chand Gehlot.
The four-time CM who never completed a full term in office, will continue to be a caretaker CM till a nominee is named. Asked about this, he said Delhi will decide.
"I thank PM (Narendra) Modi, Amit Shah and JP Nadda. They gave me the chance to rule as Chief Minister despite being over 75. I had decided to resign some time back. I thought it best to resign today as we mark completion of two years in this term," he told reporters.
"Nobody pressured me to resign. I did it on my own so that someone else can take over as Chief Minister after the completion of two years of government. I''ll work to bring BJP back in power in the next election. I've not given name of anyone who will succeed me," Yediyurappa added.
But he made it clear that he will not accept a Governor's post or leave Karnataka.
The BJP had grown in Karnataka, he said, adding: "It has always been an agnipariksha (trial by fire) for me. These last two years it was Covid."
But in a strange statement, the man who built the BJP in Karnataka from scratch, warned his colleagues that people have lost their faith in the government. Even his closest aides could not decipher what exactly he meant; that’s Yediyurappa – a man who speaks enigmatically, adding mystery to his words.
Ahead of his resignation, Yediyurappa said, “I have a debt to pay back to the people of Karnataka. I ask officers and MLAs that people have lost trust in all of us. We should work harder and in a clean, honest way. Many officials are honest. All should become that. Bangalore is being developed into a world-class city.”
BSY’s resignation has put a question mark on the MLAs who crossed over from the Congress and JD(S) to help the BJP come to power. They are solidly behind Yediyurappa, so are many MLAs whom he nurtured. His supporters in the party and Assembly will form a solid block and the new CM will have to do a fine balancing act before the state heads for polls in 2023.
Yediyurappa and corruption had almost become synonymous according to his detractors. His trusted son Vijayendra acted as an extra constitutional authority and allegedly collected kickbacks before projects were cleared.
All eyes are now on Delhi as the high command gears up to announce a successor. In the race are Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, Assembly speaker, BL Santosh, BJP national secretary, Murugesh Nirani, an industrialist-turned minister, CT Ravi, a Vokaliga leader, Basavaraj Bommai, home minister, and Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahalad Joshi.
But the BJP leadership may spring a last-minute surprise. Surprise or no surprise, the leadership will have to please Yediyurappa and the Lingayat community that can make or break the BJP in Karnataka.