The BJP’s resounding victory in four states may have repercussions in Karnataka, the only southern India state where the party is in power, with the polls outcome expected to have a bearing on the influence of caste-based leaders like B S Yediyurappa as well as the Assembly election schedule in the state.
With the BJP retaining its four states, including the politically-crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s victory speech attributing the party’s triumph to clean governance and its aversion to dynastic politics, there is speculation in the ruling camp in Karnataka that the party will also increasingly rely on its own “accomplishments” over Hindutva and development, rather than rely solely on wooing the major castes in the state.
One of the initial consequences of the saffron party’s spectacular success could be the possibility of the Karnataka BJP taking its time in inducting Yediyurappa’s younger son B Y Vijayendra, who is currently the state BJP vice president, into its ministry.
Former chief minister and Lingayat stalwart, Yediyurappa, 79, who was forced to quit as the CM in July 2021 on account of his age and amid corruption charges against his family, has been waiting for the party’s decision over the 46-year-old Vijayendra’s role in order to take a call about his own involvement in Karnataka BJP politics.
Earlier this week, ahead of the election outcome in five states,
Vijayendra was in the national capital to meet BJP president J P Nadda and lobby his own case for a government role, BJP sources said. With a victory on the cards in the four states, he was apparently rebuffed by the BJP leadership.
“The Prime Minister has spoken against dynastic politics and corruption after the win in four states and this is not a conducive situation for induction of a former CM’s son,” party sources said.
The former CM’s son was categorically told not to expect anything and to wait for his time like other young party leaders, sources said.
“There are concerns in the leadership over the induction of the former CM’s son due to past allegations of interference in the government. Yediyurappa is also wary of a strong BJP central leadership and is not keen on being assertive,” said a senior minister’s aide.
“There are concerns the former CM’s son will be an alternate power centre in the government,” BJP sources said.
So far, the BJP has been heavily dependent on Yediyurappa and the Lingayat factor to win a majority of seats in Karnataka. The win in four states is being seen by state party leaders as an example of PM Modi’s leadership gaining primacy as a factor even in state elections.
Since the poll results, Yediyurappa and Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai – who was picked by Yediyurappa to replace him as CM – have acknowledged the emerging dynamics in state politics.
“As expected, the BJP has won clearly in four states. It has shown the faith of the people in the leadership of Narendra Modi. The result will have an effect on BJP workers across the country, even Karnataka,” Yediyurappa said.
He also told the Karnataka Assembly that he will travel across the state after the current session to seek support for the party on the basis of Bommai’s budget and PM Modi’s schemes. “I will work to get the BJP 135 seats in the next polls,” the party veteran claimed, adding “We will come to power again under the leadership of Basavaraj Bommai”.
Congress leader M B Patil, a Lingayat, has however remarked that the BJP seemed intent to “get rid of Yediyurappa’s influence over the party”.
Bommai, who has struggled to establish himself at the helm after being sworn in as the CM seven months ago, has also acknowledged that the BJP’s performance in four states will have an impact on the party’s prospects in the state.
“Modiji’s schemes have reached people and they have responded to it. Irrespective of what people say, those who have benefited from the Modi government’s schemes cannot think of anyone else but the BJP and Modi,” the CM said. “It has been established that across India there is only one leader approved by all – that is Narendra Modi,” he said.
“There will be a major effect in Karnataka from the poll results. All our workers are enthused by it. The BJP will come to power again. There will be an effect on all including Cabinet, MLAs, the party and me as well,” Bommai said.
The poll outcome has also led to speculation in the Karnataka BJP whether the state would go for early polls – along with Gujarat in December this year – or wait till the end of the government’s tenure in early 2023.
“The party is going to introspect on several issues concerning Karnataka, including the timing of elections,” BJP sources said. There is a perception within the Karnataka BJP that the party, which has been facing corruption allegations, could be served well if early polls are held to capitalise on the momentum gained from the win in four states.
There has also been speculation over the possibility of a change of guard in Karnataka, but BJP sources said “changing leaders is not the solution” needed currently. “The possibility of a Cabinet overhaul is more likely,” sources added.