BS Yeddyurappa won’t just let the party leadership breathe easy. He would compromise for nothing less than total submission of the party to his whims. The party cannot be seen to be bowing to threats from every powerful regional leader, particularly not after Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s emphatic self-assertion at the party’s national executive committee meet in Mumbai.
Eight ministers loyal to him quit the Sadananda Gowda government today, making good their threat to the effect a day ago. Yeddyurappa is demanding a change of leadership in the state and wants Rural Development Minister Jagadish Shettar to take over the reins from Gowda, one-time Yeddy loyalist and now his bitter foe. The move is deliberately designed to trigger a crisis in the government and force the BJP to make a move, any move.
If the BJP decides to stick to Gowda, it means exit from the party for Yeddyurappa and the collapse of the shaky government, the first one for the party in south India. He is not averse to floating his own party but won’t make the first move and quit. If the party decides to bow to him and changes the chief minister, it means severe loss of face for it. Also, it will leave Gowda supporters displeased, seeking revenge.
Yedyurappa has been on the confrontation course with the party leadership for sometime now. During the power tussle between party president Nitin Gadkari and Modi, he backed the latter aggressively. He appears to sent a not-so-subtle message to the BJP leadership that he and his supporters would vote for UPA’s presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee if his demand for a change of leadership in Karnataka was not accepted. He commands the support of 75 of the BJP’s 110 MLAs in the assembly.
Of course, these are recent developments. Ever since he was thrown out as chief minister by the party in July 2011 after being implicated in corruption cases by the state Lokayukta, he has been making serious efforts to recapture the job. He felt seriously threatened when his hand-picked man, Gowda, sought to consolidate his own position at Yeddyurappa’s cost. That the latter had the tacit support of senior leaders at the central level left him insecure. Since then he has been busy delivering scares to Gowda and the party leaders in Delhi on nearly a daily basis. He is not likely to let go of the pressure.
That opens up the question: what next for the BJP? We have discussed its dilemma about showing him the door earlier. He wields considerable influence in the Lingayat community, which is politically influential. He can easily ruin the prospect of the party in the assembly elections due next year. His popularity might have eroded after a spate of scandals but the party has no other leader taller than him. It is better if he goes out of the party on his own. But he is a canny customer. He won’t allow the party that advantage.
The best option for the party is to swallow its pride and allow him have his man as chief minister till the elections. It is obvious to the BJP now that he actually has absolute loyalty of a big number of party MLAs and even MPs — some have threatened to resign as legislators already. It cannot do much without them. Having Yeddyurappa’s nominee as the chief minister at least ensures that he is out of the top job directly. If he is convicted in corruption cases the government won’t collapse.
The BJP cannot keep delaying its response to the Yeddyurappa problem. It’s not good for the image of the party. The best option probably is to meet it head on and take a decision.