In the 1965 Hollywood blockbuster movie Sound of Music, the nuns in the Chapel wonder ‘how do you solve a problem like Maria.’ Well, similar is the problem in Karnataka, though 78-year-old Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa is no Maria.
But last week when he announced that he was ready to step down as CM, it must have come as music to the ears of the BJP in Delhi as the BJP high command has been huffing and puffing in trying to push Yediyurappa off his chair for some time. The party wanted a young and vibrant face to lead the state. Moreover, it is only Yediyurappa who has been allowed to hold a constitutionally elected post despite crossing 75 summers. The BJP has an unwritten rule in ending political journeys of leaders at 75.
And typical of Yediyurappa, there was a fineprint in his offer – that he will step down IF the high command wants him to do so.
Again, like the lines in Sound of Music, pinning down a cloud is easier than politically pinning down the CM. Subtle hints were earlier dropped for the CM to step down. But Yediyurappa refused to take the messages paper-balled at him from Delhi. All said, the strongman of the numerically strong Lingayat community uses the power of silence well. Not many know what is in his mind even as he is known to play the waiting game well.
The high command is aware that whenever the CM makes a statement – like his offer to step down – it is invariably strapped with political explosives. One wrong move and BSY could trigger a series of political explosions that could rock the party command centre in Delhi. It happened in 2012 when he left the party in a huff.
All said, it was BSY, who built the BJP from scratch and hoisted the party flag for the first time below the Vindhyas. In 1985 Assembly elections, under the leadership of BSY, the party won just two seats after having fielded 115 candidates. Nearly 100 candidates lost their deposits. In 2008, Yediyurappa managed to bag 110 of the 224 Assembly at stake and stormed to power.
The old warhorse of the BJP may have lost the fire in his belly, but continues to gallop well ahead of the foals in the party in Karnataka. And this time too the warhorse has romped home comfortably with the party high command reposing faith in BSY and publicly snubbing his detractors. Party incharge for Karnataka Arun Singh has categorically ruled out any change in Karnataka and said that the rebels will have to face the music from Delhi.
But in offering to resign, Yediyurappa may have tested the waters before putting forth his conditions. Sources say that a tricky condition he may put forward is that he should be succeeded by a loyalist. And heading this list is his son BS Vijayendra who many describe as the de facto CM. It is the rise of BSV that has triggered a revolt in the party in Karnataka. Many senior leaders are upset at the way Yediyurappa has made his son the power centre.
BSY is keen to see a ‘son rise’ in Karnataka too. After all, his state is surrounded by states that have seen sons rise to power – in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana. In Kerala, it is a son-in-law who has been promoted up the line when Pinarayi Vijayan gave plum portfolios to Mohammad Riyaz.
But the rebels in the BJP have not given up. Senior party leaders H Vishwanath and Arvind Bellad have described BSY as an old man who is incapable of ruling but capable only of making money for his family and party bosses in Delhi. Despite getting snubbed, the rebels say it is only a matter of time before BSY is retired to the stables.
The BSY camp has now let out a war cry of victory and defended their boss. BSY has grouped his flock battle-ready as Karnataka BJP seems to be heading to a full-blown battle for supremacy. It may seem ironic that on the one hand BSY has offered to resign, and, on the other, he is fortifying his position. After all, what do you do with a ‘problem’ called Yediyurappa?