Bengaluru: State BJP stalwart B.S. Yediyurappa turned 80 on February 27. And on this occasion, or one that coincided with it, he also received a special gift from none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
During the inauguration of Shivamogga Airport, in Yediyurappa’s home districts, Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended a rare gesture of camaraderie to the senior leader of the party.
As soon as PM Modi arrived at the venue, he saw B.S. Yediyurappa standing to welcome him. The PM walked up to him, held his hand, and started walking towards the stage. This gesture left even Yediyuappa a bit perplexed while camerapersons struggled to capture this moment. Soon after the video surfaced on the internet, it went viral.
Such a gesture of the Prime Minister is so rarely extended even to the senior/ veteran leaders of BJP, most of whom are now sitting in Margadarshak Mandal, which says a lot about BJP, about Karnataka politics, and also about the importance of B.S. Yediyurappa.
During his speech, PM Modi lauded the Karnataka government and praised well the BJP rule in the state under former Chief Minister Yediyurappa. He then requested the audience to raise the flashlights of their smartphones as a show of respect for the BJP veteran from the state, evoking a massive response from the gathering.
BJP is pampering veteran leader in the desperation to hold on to 16.5 per cent Lingayat votes base in the state. This caste group which sometime agitates for separate religious identity, remains the magical pathways for BJP to retain power in Karnataka.
Though the current Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai also hails from this community, Yediyurappa remains the major pull for it.
The Lingayat community may, however, be drifting away from BJP, primarily because of the demand for increasing the Lingayat reservation quota. There are also demands of declaring Lingayat as a separate religion. This goes against the BJP’s Hindutva ideology.
Home Minister Amit Shah who recently visited the state has kept the target of winning 136 seats in Karnataka. BJP may not want to upset and compromise the Lingayat vote bank by sidelining their leader.
That is why even after removing Yediyurappa from the CM’s post, BJP has tried to placate him by including him in the parliamentary board.
Of the nine state elections, Karnataka is one. Elections are to be conducted in the state in April-May this year and the party is already embroiled in corruption controversies.
The Opposition Congress’ narrative of around 40 per cent commission allegations, PayCM, and campaign against Bommai has caught on; and the Hijab ban controversy, and attacks on minorities, have added more trouble for the incumbent government. BJP is clearly on the back foot.
At a time like this, the party has no option but to hold on to B.S. Yeddyurappa, the Lingayat mass leader who is majorly credited for BJP’s tremendous success in the only southern state.
By Deepika Rathour