BJP rejects call to make a Yeddyurappa-Modi 'Jodi' despite clamour

File picture of PM Narendra Modi with B S Yeddyurappa and other leaders
The central Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) turned down a proposal from B S Yeddyurappa’s adherents to project Yeddyurappa and Narendra Modi as the “twin faces” of “vikas” (development) and the pair as the “panacea” for Karnataka’s ailments. 

Loyalists of Yeddyurappa, who has been positioned as the BJP’s chief-ministerial candidate in the state assembly election, hit upon this tactic ostensibly to clear the doubts and misgivings that arose around their leader after his son, B Y Vijendra, was denied a ticket that would have enabled him to contest against chief minister Siddharamaiah’s son Yatindra from Varuna, elevating the little known constituency in Mysuru district to a marquee seat. Indeed, Yeddyurappa’s detractors in the Karnataka BJP as well as the central leaders are miffed with his supporters’ exertions to create evenly sized placards of him and the Prime Minister and place his mug alongside those of Modi and the BJP president Amit Shah in the recent party ads inundating the media.

Yeddyurappa’s clout in the prelude to the state elections has not been as full-blown as he had expected when the BJP resurrected him after he had rebelled, left the party and returned home. His political associate, Shobha Karandlaje, who sought a ticket from Yeshwantpur, Bengaluru City, was also denied one although the word from Yeddyurappa’s camp was she was not keen on fighting the state election now that she’s a Lok Sabha MP. 

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.

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