FORMER KARNATAKA Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa has set an ultimatum for the BJP to reinstate him in power or face the prospect of a rebellion. The belligerent leader has set 15 January as the deadline for the party high command to take a final call on reinstating him as CM or giving him BJP state unit chief KS Eshwarappa’s job.
At a meeting of his supporters on 2 January, Yeddyurappa lashed out at his party colleagues for his setbacks. His anger was particularly aimed at friendturned-foe Eshwarappa and his increasingly independent protégé, CM Sadananda Gowda. Yeddyurappa accused Eshwarappa of conspiring to send him to jail and turning the party high command against him.
Yeddyurappa was forced to step down last July after being indicted in a Lokayukta report on the multi- crore mining scam, which has sent his former Cabinet colleague Janardhana Reddy to jail. Since his exit, Yeddyurappa has been trying hard to take control of both the party and the government. His initial efforts at regaining the CM’s post was snubbed by the party high command, especially LK Advani, who is reportedly set against giving the reins of power back to the tainted Lingayat leader. A desperate Yeddyurappa signalled that he was willing to settle for the BJP state chief’s post, but here too he was snubbed.
After stepping down, Yeddyurappa had remote-controlled the government and the party through Gowda. However, his fall from grace has broken his uncontested authority and given increasing administrative and political autonomy to Gowda. With the high command openly backing Gowda to finish his term and even the MLAs in Yeddyurappa’s camp shying away from early polls, this might be the last chance for him to challenge the party leadership.
If he fails to get his way, Yeddyurappa has threatened to form his own party with the backing of the Lingayat community. It is rumoured that when he visited New Delhi for parleys with BJP leaders, he also met Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar to form a Karnataka unit of the NCP. However, a party source denied that a meeting took place but said that the leaders have been in contact over the phone.
“This is his usual tactic,” says BJP National Executive Committee member Vaman Acharya. “He always works by mounting pressure. The party knows his nature and they will not agree to it. Last time also, he had threatened that he will join the JD(S). Before the UP polls, Karnataka was a thorn in the party high command’s side. Since the issue has been resolved, the party wants no more trouble. It’s time for Yeddyurappa to realise it and start working in the present condition.”
On many occasions, the party leadership had made it clear to Yeddyurappa that they are not in favour of reinstating him until the corruption charges are cleared. Party sources claim that, unlike before, when it was only Advani who had snubbed him, the whole party is against him this time.
Incidentally, BJP ministerturned- independent MLA B Sriramulu has announced the launch of his party Badavara Shramikara Raithara on 15 January, coinciding with Yeddyurappa’s deadline. After winning the Bellary rural constituency, Sriramulu, a close associate of the Reddy brothers, has emerged in a new avatar as the leader of the backward class.
Before Yeddyurappa was persuaded by the BJP to support Gowda’s MLC candidature, Yeddyurappa and the Reddy camp had both mused over forging an alliance. Desperation for power could still lead Yeddyurappa to turn that way, but party insiders say that Sriramulu is more likely to join hands with the JD(S).
Gowda’s plans to expand his Cabinet by inducting seven new ministers have been put off because Yeddyurappa wants a majority of the berths for his supporters. With the state leadership unable to resolve the issue, a core committee meeting to be held in Bengaluru is expected to decide on the appointments. The concessions made to the Yeddyurappa camp could set the stage for his final confrontation with the party high command.
Imran Khan is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.com.