At 76, former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa should have followed in the footsteps of other Bharatiya Janata Party veterans, who have quit active politics after turning 75, the age after which they are discouraged to continue in active politics. But Yeddyurappa is eyeing another stint in power as chief minister HD Kumaraswamy’s government teeters on the brink.
Two independent MLAs withdrew their support to the state’s Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) or JD (S) coalition government on Monday. A suspended lawmaker separately confirmed he would quit. Earlier, 12 lawmakers put in their papers on Saturday. The strength of Karnataka’s 224-member assembly will be reduced to 211 if their resignations are accepted. A party or a coalition would need 106 seats to form a government in such a scenario. The Congress-JD (S) coalition will be left with 104 members while the BJP will have the support of 105. The BJP is also likely to get the backing of two independents.
“There is no restriction as such that bars him [Yeddyurappa] from becoming the chief minister,” said a BJP leader involved with Karnataka affairs. “When he became chief minister in May last year, he had already crossed the age of 75.” Yeddyurappa was forced to quit as CM in March 2018 after the BJP failed to prove its majority even as it emerged as the single largest party.
The BJP denied tickets to several of its 75-plus leaders such as Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Shanta Kumar in the April-May national elections. Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, too, stepped down from her post in August 2016, saying she would turn 75 soon.
What then makes Yeddyurappa indispensable? “There is no immediate replacement for him,” said a second BJP leader.
He remains the BJP chief in Karnataka, and the leader of the Opposition in the state assembly, much against party’s one-man-one-post principle.
The Karnataka BJP is largely divided between Yeddyurappa loyalists and his baiters. He remains the party’s most popular face in Karnataka, with standing in almost every region of the state. Two other BJP leaders, DV Sadananda Gowda, and Jagadish Shettar, also have held the CM’s post, but could never challenge Yeddyurappa’s clout within the BJP and match his appeal.
“Yeddyurappa is still the favoured leader among the influential Lingayat community and its seers,” the second leader said.
Lingayats account for 16% of Karnataka’s population and are the BJP’s mainstay. The BJP lost a considerable chunk of votes when Yeddyurappa fought the 2013 state election under the banner of Karnataka Janata Paksha.
Experts say it is not going to be that easy for Yeddyurappa. “Nobody wants to face election right now.