Bangalore: The man who will be sworn in as the 25th chief minister of Karnataka, 65-year-old Bookankere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa, is a farmer leader, who has guided the fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, in the state for a long time.
An active member of the Rashtirya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, since he was 23, Yeddyurappa first shot into the limelight for taking up the cause of landless farmers and bonded labourers in Shimoga, his adopted home in the hilly Malnad region. He was jailed several times during Emergency.
B.S. Yeddyurappa’s rise—from a government clerk to the chief minister’s post—has been a long and arduous journey (Photo by: Hemant Mishra / Mint)
First elected to the state assembly in 1983, when the BJP supported the Janata Party government of Ramakrishna Hegde, Yeddyurappa has since been elected MLA five times in every single election—except in 1999—from Shikaripura (which means the hunter’s land).
Seven months ago, he had to step down as chief minister after an eight-day stint, when H.D. Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular) reneged on a promise to support his government. He had then vowed to ensure that the BJP would come to power on its own steam.
Yeddyurappa’s rise from a clerk in the social welfare department to the chief minister’s post has been a long and arduous journey. He has taken a to power a party which two decades ago had just one MLA and a mere 2.6% of the votes in the state. A Lingayat, the dominant community that constitutes 15% of the state’s population, Yeddyurappa is a widower with two sons and three daughters, none of whom is in active politics.
A man known for impatience, Yeddyurappa’s outbursts and walkouts from the assembly when he was in the opposition changed after he became the deputy chief minister to Kumaraswamy in the 20-month coalition.
In 2004, frustrated by the machinations of the party’s national general secretary, former Union civil aviation minister and L.K. Advani acolyte, H.N. Ananth Kumar, Yeddyurappa had almost decided to split the party and join hands with JD(S). He later publicly admitted that this was the only mistake he had “contemplated”.
The BJP national leadership intervened and patched up differences between the two state leaders, and declared Yeddyurappa the leader of the party in Karnataka. In his 20-month stint as deputy chief minister, he presented two revenue-surplus budgets. By introducing a ban on the sale of arrack (a local brew) and lotteries, he earned goodwill among sections of the people.
“We have risen from strength to strength and today, if BJP has been given a chance to form the government, it is because of Yeddyurappa,” said Ananth Kumar on Sunday after the party emerged as the single largest party in the state. With the onus on cobbling a majority and the state facing several socio-economic challenges, Yeddyurappa’s skill as an administrator will be put to test.
K. Raghu contributed to this story.