Bengaluru: They have a proverb in Kannada —geddonu sota, sotonu satta (the winner loses, the loser dies).
It summarizes the dilemma facing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) soldier B.S. Yeddyurappa, who will take oath as chief minister of Karnataka on Thursday.
The Supreme Court, after a post midnight hearing on Wednesday, allowed Yeddyurappa’s swaering-in. Yet, he is short of eight MLAs to reach the revised simple majority of 112 seats to show his strength in the floor of the House. On the other hand, his rivals Congress and JD(S) have formed a post-poll alliance and even surpassed the 112-seat mark.
Even if he becomes the chief minister after jumping all this hurdle, he faces a strong internal rival, K. S. Eshwarappa, who wants to become an alternative power centre in the Karnataka BJP.
Political analyst James Manor thinks it’s only a matter of time before Yeddyurappa is pushed aside for a hardline Hindutva leader.
If he loses out, it is end of the road for Yeddyurappa in politics.
Yeddyurappa was haunted by his past political excesses in this election —infighting in the party, a string of scandals and charges ranging from land grab to illegal mining scams. It eventually earned him a very dubious distinction —the first chief minister to be put behind bars for corruption, although a CBI court acquitted him of some of the charges in 2016.
Then there was his age, 75, that remains the BJP’s unofficial upper bar for politicians to retire. Party president Amit Shah had expressed willingness to disregard the rule if the strongman from the dominant Lingayat community did manage to hand over a clear majority for the BJP in Karnataka,
Yeddyurappa declared that this was his last battle from Shikaripura, where it all began for the rice mill accountant who rose through the ranks of the RSS and Jan Sangh (the predecessor of the BJP) during the Emergency. After contesting the municipal election in Shikaripura in 1975, some seven years after he married the rice mill owner’s daughter, Yeddyurappa did not turn back.
“There was money in the municipality which was not used. He took out that money, so for the first time Shikaripura saw tubelights and all," said a person close to him, on condition of anonymity. Almost four decades later, the picture was completely reversed.
He was accused of plundering public money, and had to quit unceremoniously as the chief minister. In leaving, he was defiant. He went on to launch the Karnataka Janata Party, spoiling not only his own but also the BJP’s chances in the 2013 Karnataka elections. This time around, things could be different —the rice mill accountant could come good with the numbers.