The strategy to de-couple Modi from Yeddyurappa was in sync with the BJP’s working plan to inflate the Prime Minister’s image and authority as unchallenged and peerless not just at the Centre but in the provinces too. Where a CM candidate was placed, he willy-nilly slipped into the background and allowed Modi to lead from the front. Assam’s Sarbananda Sonowal and Gujarat’s Vijay Rupani adhered to the brief. A Karnataka BJP leader elaborated on the approach, saying, “Our internal assessment is that we could be the single largest party. We are close to the finishing line but to beat the tape, Modi is what we are looking for. We need Modi to touch or cross the majority mark.”
A video conference Modi had with his party workers and leaders in Karnataka this week apparently “rejuvenated” those who were especially peeved with the infighting among the state leaders. Asked what it was about Modi that brought smiles and cheers, a source said, “His speeches are not important because he repeats himself. It’s the ambience his presence creates. His magic is intact.”
Yeddyurappa’s ticket-aspiring son was asked to withdraw precisely because Modi is expected to bombard the battlefield from May 1, hurling fussilades on the Congress and its “dynasty” culture “represented” by Rahul Gandhi and Siddharamaiah. “Congress works on a 2 plus 1 formula, two positions and tickets for a leader and one for his legatee. A ticket to Yeddyurappa’s son would have blunted the attack. Yeddyurappa understood this and stepped back,” a source said.
How did Yeddyurappa keep his authority afloat through the electioneering? A few of his nominees got tickets on peril of angering BJP old-timers who had long since queued up. For instance, for the Tumkur City seat, BJP loyalist Sogadu Shivanna was passed over for Jyoti Ganesh, who had left the party with Yeddyurappa and returned with him. A miffed Shivanna threatened to stay “neutral”. In Bhalki (Bidar) another Yeddyurappa recommendation, DK Siddarama pipped old BJP hands to the post.
“These are stray instances of his so-called clout. He’s not in a position to take important decisions. The BJP president doesn’t rely on him solely for feedback,” a source said. Shah has multiple sources of information, chief among them being inputs supplied by three groups: one consisting of the central minders Prakash Javadekar, Ananth Kumar, P Muralidhar Rao and B L Santhosh (Piyush Goyal, also a designated minder, is preoccupied with the Railways ministry), a second comprising his “trusted” general secretaries Bhupendra Yadav, Anil Jain and Arun Singh and a third made up of the Karnataka leaders of whom Yeddyurappa is one.
Yeddyurappa votaries challenged the perception that he was being weakened. They compared him with the BJP’s stalwarts of yesteryears such as Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Kalyan Singh whose mass base was incalculable and transcended their caste origins. “He is Karnataka’s tallest farmer leader after HD Deve Gowda. He single-handedly carried out the BJP’s campaign to put agrarian distress and peasants’ suicides on our agenda by addressing meetings in 6,000 villages and collecting fistfuls of rice from 20,000 booths,” a source emphasized.