Who will be next Chief Minister of Karnataka? Lingayat strongman BS Yeddyurappa likely to become CM for third time

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looks set to storm to victory in Karnataka with a simple majority, thereby being in a position to form government on its own without any help from allies. If it does so, BS Yeddyurappa, the party's pre-poll chief ministerial candidate, will take oath to become chief minister for the third time.

Incidentally, the BJP leader and party's MLA from Shikaripura constituency, had confidently predicted a victory back on 2 May, even spelling out the details of his oath-taking ceremony.

In an address to party workers at Shivamoga on 2 May, Yeddyurappa had said, "17 May is a Thursday and 18 May is a Friday. We have to look at the convenient time of the prime minister. Chief ministers of other states too will attend the event... My oath-taking at Vidhana Soudha as chief minister of Karnataka is inevitable. Nobody should have any doubt about it."

BJP's chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa. PTI

BJP's chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa. PTI

Back when he made this announcement, the state was still on a knife's edge, and Yeddyurappa's confidence was seen as premature. However, the victory for BJP would make it appear like he had played his cards right.

Playing the Lingayat card

The Congress state government had declared minority religion status to the Lingayat community in Karnataka, a move that would have purportedly given the party an edge over the BJP when it comes to securing the Lingayat vote. Lingayats, along with the numerically strong Veerashaivas, number over 17 percent of Karnataka's population, as this report from India Today has argued. It said that Lingayats are the dominant community in over 100 out of the state's 224 constituencies, most of them from north Karnataka. Nine of its chief ministers have been Lingayats.

But with Yeddyurappa having been the BJP's face in the state for over three decades, time in which he has been sent to the Karnataka Assembly on six different occasions, the party has always been in pole position to clinch the community's vote. It was believed that Congress' attempt to give the community a religious minority card was an attempt to draw some of this support away from the saffron party. Clearly, it has not worked.

Speaking to Firstpost in April this year, Yeddyurappa had said as much. He denied that the community would tilt towards the Congress, and warned the party that it would be taught "a lesson of a lifetime". "Congress will taste a lesson of a lifetime for its misadventure in this religious issue. The anger and resentment of the people throughout the state is intense and widespread. Even ardent supporters of Congress are angry and want to teach Siddaramaiah a lesson for interfering in religious affairs. Nobody tolerates dividing the society. BJP draws strength and support from all religious denominations cutting across caste and creed and all rungs of the society," he said.

Conviction and arrest

The Congress had also used the issue of Yeddyurappa's arrest and jail stint for a land grab case in 2011 to criticise the BJP. Yeddyurappa was accused of denotifying government land for monetary gain. Two Bengaluru advocates had filed five cases against Yeddyurappa, his two sons, son-in-law and others, accusing them of denotifying the government land.

Yeddyurappa became the first accused in all the five cases of illegal land denotification for monetary gains. He became the first former chief minister in the state's history to have an arrest warrant against his name. He then went on to spend 25 days in jail, before being released from Bangalore Central Prison.

Later, in 2016, a CBI court had cleared Yeddyurappa and his sons. The Karnataka High Court had initially quashed all charges against Yeddyurappa, following which the Samaja Parivartana Samudaya NGO moved the Supreme Court, which asked the CBI to re-investigate the matter.

In the run-up to the Assembly election, Yeddyurappa hit back at Congress and Siddaramaiah for bringing up the issue of his stint in jail. He said he was acquitted by multiple courts. "Moreover, Siddaramaiah has conveniently forgotten that his own party leaders Rajiv Gandhi and Oscar Fernandes had taken bail to avoid jail sentences," he added.

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Updated Date: May 15, 2018 12:51 PM

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