Bangalore: B S Yeddyurappa is expected to arrive in Delhi later today from Bangalore to meet with his party’s top leaders. He is likely, say sources in the BJP, to return to Karnataka as chief minister. In July last year, he was forced to quit office after a report on illegal mining indicted him for corruption. Last week, a court dismissed those charges.
Mr Yeddyurappa has since the weekend proved rather unsubtly to his party that he remains its strongest leader in Karnataka, where the BJP has been trying to prevent its first government in the South from crashing. After his demands to be made chief minister were ignored by the BJP.
Mr Yeddyurappa packed close to 70 of his party’s 120 MLAs into a five-star resort on the outskirts of Bangalore. The size of Mr Yeddyurappa’s camp proved he can split the party.
Yesterday, his supporters refused to report to work at the Karnataka Assembly, making it impossible for current Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda to present his budget.
Back-stage negotiations helped end that embarrassment. Mr Yeddyurappa’s loyalists arrived, as promised by him last night, at the Assembly this morning. In another sign of cooperation, he has asked his candidate for the Rajya Sabha, BJ Puttaswamy, to withdraw from the election. As an act of defiance, Mr Yeddyurappa had said that Mr Puttaswamy would contest the Rajya Sabha seat against official BJP candidates.
In a critical by-election today, the BJP lost the Udipi-Chikmagalur seat today- the former constituency of the new chief minister. The defeat is a victory in disguise for Mr Yeddyurappa who was not allowed to campaign there by the BJP because it was worried that the cases of corruption against him would hurt their candidate.
On Monday, BJP president Nitin Gadkari requested Mr Yeddyurappa to be patient and “not to do anything that will hurt the BJP.”
The current chief minister was hand-picked by Mr Yeddyurappa when he stepped down. Now, Mr Gowda is unwilling to make room for the return of his mentor.
The dispute has caste overtones as well. Mr Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat, chose a Vokkaliga to replace him. Both are dominant communities in the state – and the BJP is in a bind now in case they have alienated the Lingayat vote bank. Would one time Yeddyurappa foe turned ally, Jagadish Shettar, another Lingayat, be a potential Chief Ministerial choice that would satisfy Mr Yeddyurappa if he is given the chair himself? And how would the Vokkaliga community react to a Chief Minister from their community being dumped on the demands of the volatile Mr Yeddyurappa? Elections to the state assembly are due in 2013.