Yeddy Keeps BJP on Edge

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The Karnataka strongman falls in line once again, but won’t keep quiet until his loyalist is in the CM’s chair, says Imran Khan

Yeddyurappa makes public his desire to continue in the BJP
Temporary truce, Yeddyurappa makes public his desire to continue in the BJP, Photo: Bangalore News Photos

IMMEDIATELY AFTER BS Yeddyurappa’s two-day rebellion drama that started on 14 May failed to move the BJP for a change in the state leadership, the CBI, on directions of the apex court, moved in on him in a series of raids at his firm and houses, as well as those of his relatives. Though the former chief minister was reigned in by the high command from splitting the party, insiders say that his primary objective through the fizzled rebellion was to get the party to support him in the mining case and prevent his opponents from using the CBI probe to target him.

The immediate catalyst for the Lingayat leader’s purported move of publicly announcing a break from the BJP was the Supreme Court decision on 11 May to institute a CBI investigation against him on charges of nepotism, land acquisition and favouring mining companies. For Karnataka Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda, the CBI probe has come as a lifesaver, ending any chance Yeddyurappa had of being made chief minister again.

On 15 May, CBI sleuths raided the Prerana Education Society owned by Yeddyurappa, houses at Race Course and Dollars Colony in Bengaluru and of those close to him in Shimoga in connection with the Rs 20 crore donation the Society received from South West Mining Limited, a Jindal Group company. Additionally, the investigating agency is also probing a case of undue favour, where land worth Rs 40 lakh belonging to Yeddyurappa’s relatives was allegedly bought for Rs 20 crore by the mining company.

Though Yeddyurappa has put up a brave face in public and said that he would be exonerated by the CBI; in private, he has been pulling strings to ensure that he gets away scot-free. “All this drama of defiance was to make sure that he gets support in the mining case,” says a senior leader on the condition of anonymity. “He is afraid that the CBI is out to get him. He thinks that if he doesn’t put someone loyal in the chief minister’s chair, there’s a fair chance that his enemies in the party would cooperate with the CBI in bringing him down.”

Hence, one of his key demands in the coming days would be that Gowda should step down and a man of his choice should become the chief minister.

Earlier, Yeddyurappa had plans to project his protégé Shobha Karandlaje as the chief minister, but knowing that his own followers would oppose her candidature (she is a political lightweight and a Vokkaliga, rather than a Lingayat) he had decided to settle for either Industries Minister Murugesh Nirani or PWD Minister CM Udasi. He wants the chief minister of his choice to help him in preventing the CBI from laying its hands on crucial documents, says the leader. “It is for this reason that he is raising storm. It is a typical tactical move,” he adds.

No MLA wants early polls, so they told Yeddyurappa that he should not act in haste but wait till they finish their term in 2013

The Yeddyurappa camp fears that if he goes to jail, four loyalists — Energy Minister Karandlaje, Industries Minister Nirani, Irrigation Minister Basavaraj Bommai and Excise Minister MP Renukacharya — would be dropped from the Cabinet.

Yeddyurappa also trained his guns on BJP MP Ananth Kumar at the press conference, accusing the latter of poisoning LK Advani’s mind against him. It is well-known that opposition from the RSS and Advani have been the biggest stumbling blocks to Yeddyurappa becoming CM again. It is learnt that the attack was in response to a strong rumour in BJP circles that Kumar could replace Gowda. Kumar has been lobbying with Advani but lacks support in the state unit due to his image and his caste (he’s a Brahmin).

Yeddyurappa is known to have enjoyed proximity with BJP President Nitin Gadkari and Jaitley. According to sources, Gadkari spoke to Yeddyurappa and assured him that he had his sympathy and that a leader of his stature was needed. But Gadkari expressed his helplessness at the situation. On his part, Jaitley, who is known to have drifted away from the Advani camp, advised Yeddyurappa to hold his horses but go public about naming those in the party who had opposed him. It was not surprising then that Yeddyurappa launched a veiled attack on the Advani camp when he said, “Arun Jaitley is the only national leader that the BJP has.”

HOWEVER, WHERE Yeddyurappa lost the larger game was when his followers backed out from leaving the party. No MLA wants early polls and they have told Yeddyurappa that he should not act in haste but wait till they finish their term almost exactly a year from now. The support enjoyed by Yeddyurappa a couple of months ago was not seen during the 14 May press conference at his Bengaluru residence, where he was supposed to announce his resignation, along with that of his supporters.

When not more than 20 MLAs turned up for the press conference, the writing was clear. Some MLAs fear that even if they come out of the BJP, Yeddyurappa’s potential arrest would make it difficult for them to go to the Assembly polls. However, the point is, minus its Lingayat mascot, the BJP too faces a tough state election in 2013.

Imran Khan is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.
imran@tehelka.com

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