The ruling BJP in Karnataka is making all attempts to mollycoddle former chief minister and BJP Central Parliamentary Board member B.S. Yediyurappa ahead of the assembly polls.
The party has elevated him to the core team in New Delhi and made him appeal to the Lingayat community not to have any bitter feelings towards the BJP for dethroning him.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah (whose breakfast meeting with Yediyurappa on Friday was a major show of support) and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh have been openly showering praises on Yediyurappa and ensuring his presence with them.
Sources said that the saffron party, unable to create another mass leader in the state, has understood that the snubs by the party to Yediyurappa has angered the Lingayat community.
Amaregouda Patil, senior Congress MLA from Kushtagi in north Karnataka, told IANS that it is impossible for the BJP to recover lost ground at this stage. “The BJP has finished off Yediyurappa. He resigned in tears. As a legislator, I can say that no other leader in the BJP was mistreated like he was. Now, they are back with him claiming that he is their leader.
“There is no question of the Lingayat community voting for the BJP by seeing Yediyurappa being projected. How can they vote? He was made to cry and asked to step down. The people are still angry over the past,” Patil said.
At 80 years of age, Yediyurappa, accused of corruption and favouritism, is still the unquestioned leader of the Lingayat community. About 40 to 50 MLAs get elected to the state legislature from the community.
The BJP in Karnataka derives its core strength from the Lingayat community which accounts for 17 per cent of the population as per available statistics. The community has a presence across Karnataka.
It has a large population base in the north Karnataka region. Lingayats are scattered all across the state and play a decisive role in many districts of south Karnataka.
Yediyurappa had built the party from scratch in Karnataka. From just two seats, one being won by him, along with other prominent leaders he played a crucial role in bringing the BJP to power in the state.
He rose to the position of opposition leader and after bringing the BJP to power through “Operation Lotus” he bacame the CM. The Lingayat community from across the state stood firmly behind him.
Yediyurappa, by also fulfilling the promises of other community leaders, went on to become a mass leader who can appeal to all communities in the state.
Niranjan Kumar, BJP MLA from Gundlupet constituency, while talking to IANS said that Yediyurappa still has that special respect in the hearts of the Lingayat community. The people still remember his programmes for all communities which didn’t have any caste or religious colours.
“The trend still continues. His words will be respected by the community in the present scenario. All confusion is created by the opposition parties. They falsely maintain that Yediyurappa and the Lingayats are insulted by the party. The Lingayat community will undoubtedly stand with the BJP as per the wishes of Yediyurappa,” Kumar stated.
However, the fear of the erosion of the vote bank of the feudalistic Lingayat community is looming large over the saffron party. Sources said that as the BJP failed to present another mass leader who could win over the masses, it will dent the Lingayat vote bank which has strongly backed the BJP for decades.
Haratalu Halappa, BJP MLA from Sagar constituency, told IANS that the BJP is all set to win 123 seats in the assembly elections and there is a pro-BJP wave in the state. “The Lingayat community is very much behind Yediyurappa presently. The controversy surrounding Yediyurappa being targeted by the BJP is a thing of the past. He is leading the campaign now.”