Yediyurappa quits as Karnataka CM: Why BJP ensured his smooth exit

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It's final! Karnataka Chief Minister Yediyurappa has resigned from his post, ending days of speculation. In an emotional speech he thanked the party High Command for providing him the opportunity to serve the people of the state.

After his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month, there was a lot of buzz in Karnataka political circles about his future.

It seems that the Bharatiya Janata Party strongman of southern India has accepted the decision of the High Command and relinquished his position. He is 78 years of age, way above than BJP’s unofficial diktat of retirement of leaders at 75.

Yediyurappa was instrumental in the formation of a BJP government in the state by attracting dissenters from Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) in 2019. Hence this exception was made.

However, it was clear from the day he took oath that a transition will happen as the BJP would like to contest polls due in 2023 under a new young leadership.

Considering that Yediyurappa is perhaps the only mass leader of the party with a statewide appeal and in the past forced a split when he was removed from his post in the previous stint, the party patiently handled the situation.

Why did BJP provide Yediyurappa with such a long rope?

1. His immense contribution

Yediyurappa led the BJP to its first-ever government in the southern part of India. Even today, the BJP has a strong presence only in Karnataka. In Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, the party has negligible influence.

The charismatic Yediyurappa in many ways by winning Karnataka provided the party the gateway to entry in south India.

In the 2018 elections, the BJP emerged as the single-largest party, just 8 seats short of a simple majority. The JD(S) and the Congress put together an opportunist post-poll alliance and formed a government. Yediyurappa ensured that the BJP, which was the natural claimant to power in the Karnataka, formed the government in the state with the support of Congress and JD(S) legislators.

He also ensured the party did exceptionally well in the state in the 2014 and 2019 general elections.

2. Survival of government which enjoys a thin majority

Currently, the BJP enjoys the support of 121 MLAs in the House, only nine more than the majority mark. The government survives on the support of the 13 erstwhile Congress and JD(S) MLAs who won on a BJP ticket after getting disqualified from the Assembly.

Twelve of them are ministers in the government and these are considered as Yediyurappa’s loyalists. Yediyurappa made them ministers despite opposition from within the party. Any strong arm tactic could have put the government in jeopardy.

3. Loss of Lingayat votes

Yediyurappa belongs to the influential Lingayat community which accounts for 17% of the state population. Lingayats hold influence in North Karnataka, Hyderabad Karnataka and the Old Mumbai region. More than 60 percent have been voting for the BJP because of the Yediyurappa factor. A smooth exit will soothe the anger amongst the community due to his resignation.

4. Avoid split in party

A forced exit might have irked Yediyurappa who is known for his temperament to form his own party again. He split the state unit in December 2012 forming the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP). In the 2013 elections, though the KJP won only six seats and secured 9.8% vote share, it restricted BJP to 40 seats. The KJP hurt the prospects of BJP in 29 seats.

5. Avoid Uttarakhand like situation

The BJP high command has taken a lot of time to assess the situation. Now who will be the new chief minister is being keenly watched. There are many aspirants as the party is divided into many camps in the state.

The party, learning from its Uttarakhand episode, didn't want to rush and then retract as it would show the BJP in poor light. The BJP has made efforts to ensure the new chief minister will be acceptable to all sections of the party.

6. Prevent damage to prospects in 2023

The state elections are due in 2023 and the BJP wanted to give sufficient time to new leadership to adjust to the political environment, design policies and implement programmes that would benefit the party in the state elections. Any dilly-dallying on the party high command’s part, sitting on the issue and changing the chief minister very near to the elections could have proven costly.

To sum up, with Yediyurappa’s resignation, it’s the end of an era and a new beginning for the BJP in Karnataka.

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