B.S. Yeddyurappaagreed to resign as Karnataka chief minister after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asked him to quit following his indictment by the Lokayukta, the anti-graft watchdog, in the illegal mining case.
This allows the BJP, the main opposition party, to take the moral high ground in its battle against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on issues of corruption and poor governance.
The move by Yeddyurappa, who called off a state cabinet meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon and is expected to send his resignation to party president Nitin Gadkari shortly, is contrary to expectations that he would defy his party’s diktat.
The BJP now has the advantage ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament beginning 1 August, during which it plans to intensify its attack on the UPA.
Yeddyurappa’s impending exit has clearly given the BJP the opportunity to take on the UPA, said Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president, Centre for Policy Research, a Delhi-based think tank.
“With the Yeddyurappa issue hanging over them, they (BJP) had no chance of taking the moral high ground,” Mehta said. “However, now with this liability gone, it frees them to take a much more aggressive and consistent stand.”
The decision to remove Yeddyurappa was taken after a meeting of the BJP parliamentary board, its highest decision-making body, at Gadkari’s residence on Thursday morning.
Leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitleyand senior party leader Rajnath Singh have been deputed to go to Bangalore on Friday to elect Yeddyurappa’s successor, party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasadsaid. “The party’s parliamentary board unanimously decided that the leader of the legislature party in Karnataka must be changed,” he said. “Accordingly, it advised Yeddyurappa to tender his resignation immediately.”
Senior BJP leaders, including L.K. Advani, leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi and Venkaiah Naidu, attended the meeting. Significantly, party general secretary Ananth Kumar, known to be Yeddyurappa’s rival, was not present at the meet.
“Another message from the BJP, if it manages to pull this off without any defections, is that the party collective leadership can take a decision without stirring unrest at the state level,” Mehta said.
Possible successors to Yeddyurappa include BJP MP and former state unit president Sadananda Gowda, state higher education minister V.S. Acharya, Ananth Kumar, state BJP chief K.S. Eshwarappa and state minister for rural development and panchayati rajJagadish Shettar.
“Among the names Yeddyurappa is pushing for, the ones that figure prominently are Sadananda Gowda and Shobha Karandlaje (Karnataka’s energy minister),” said a state party leader who did not want to be identified.
The BJP wants Yeddyurappa to back its choice of chief minister. “He is a senior leader and has served the party for 40 years... We cannot afford to antagonize him any further or snub him. So his suggestions will definitely be taken into account while choosing the next chief minister,” said a national-level BJP leader, who did not want to be identified.
There had been growing apprehension within the party that Yeddyurappa’s continuance despite being indicted by the Lokayukta would dilute the BJP’s ability to take an aggressive stance against the ruling UPA.
“Now we can and will go all out in Parliament, attacking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and home minister P. Chidambaram,” said the party leader cited above. “This has definitely emboldened us.”
The BJP had escalated its attack against Singh and Chidambaram, demanding their resignation, after former Union telecom minister A. Raja said they were aware of his actions relating to allocation of second-generation (2G) telecom spectrum.
A week after being leaked by some sections of the media, Lokayukta Santosh Hegde’s report on illegal mining was formally submitted on Wednesday, following which Yeddurappa was summoned to Delhi by the party top brass. The report, which put the loss to the exchequer at Rs16,085 crore between 2006 and 2010, recommended action “as per law” against Yeddyurappa, among others.
The chief minister, according to party leaders, tried to convince the central leadership that the charges made in the report were not new and a court case was already pending in the matter.
Yeddyurappa, who has a strong rural base and is from the powerful Lingayat community, assumed office as chief minister in 2008, after successfully leading the party to its first ever assembly election win in the south.
B.S. Yeddyurappa, Born on 27 February, 1943, in Bookanakere village in Mandya district.
1972-76: After joining the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Bangalore, makes his debut in public life by becoming president of the Shikaripura Taluk Jan Sangh. Is jailed for 45 days at Shimoga and Bellary during the Emergency.
1977: Rises to further prominence, becomes secretary of the Janata Party.
1983: Wins his first assembly election from Shimoga from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), enters the Karnataka Legislature
1988: Becomes state BJP president in 1988.
1989: Enters assembly for the third time.
1992: Is appointed secretary, all India BJP.
1994: Enters assembly for the fourth time and becomes opposition leader. Leads an 18-day padayatra from Shimoga.
1998-99: Becomes state BJP president for the second time. Leads farmers’ marches.
2000-2004: Is elected to the Karnataka Legislative Council.
2004: Gets elected to the assembly for the 5th time.
2004 (May) to 2006 (Jan): Has a brief stint as leader of the opposition.
2006 : Rises to prominence by helping Janata Dal (Secular) party bring down the coalition government of Dharam Singh in 2006. Becomes deputy chief minister in the coalition government headed by H D Kumaraswamy [JD(S)] in February.
2007 (Nov): Becomes chief minister in the coalition government for one week.
2008: A significant rural base and the backing of the influential Lingayat community catapults Yeddyurappa to power as he becomes chief minister of the first ever BJP government in the South.
2008 (Dec): Justice Santosh Hegde’s first report in illegal mining submitted. Yeddyurappa dismisses the report, ordering his own probe.
2010 (Oct): 16 MLAS rebel and withdraw support but Yeddyurappa manages to win the trust vote twice and remain in power.
2010 (November): Yeddyurappa’s alleged misuse of his position as chief minister to unfairly favour his sons in the allotment of prime land in Bangalore comes to light, triggers political crisis for the BJP and him.
2011 (February): Publicly declares his assets, challenges the opposition to find any ”black money”.
2011 (July): Wins third trust vote after speaker disqualifies 16 MLAs, including 12 dissident BJP MLAs. House strength down to 208, with BJP scraping through the halfway mark with 105 MLAs, down from 117.
July 19: Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde’s report on illegal mining leaked, report indicts Yeddyurappa. BJP says it would comment or take action only when report is officially submitted.
July 27: Hegde submits final report. BJP parliamentary board asks him to step down as CM. Yeddyurappa obeys party orders, submits resignation.
Source: Mint Research
Sridhar Chari of Mint in Bangalore and PTI contributed to this story.