Faced with panchayat elections, BJP decides to retain Yeddyurappa as CM

Faced with panchayat elections, BJP decides to retain Yeddyurappa as CM

New Delhi / Bangalore: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to allow B.S. Yeddyurappa, who is facing accusations of nepotism and corruption, to continue as chief minister of Karnataka.

The decision comes ahead of next month’s panchayat (local body) polls in the state, in which the party would need the support of Yeddyurappa’s Lingayat community to perform well.

But political rivals and analysts said the compromise would take the sting out of the BJP’s attacks against the Congress-led Union government on a slew of corruption scandals.

Opposition parties in Karnataka, including the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Congress, have been demanding Yeddyurappa’s resignation after he allegedly allotted land to a company in which his two sons are partners.

“After consulting senior party colleague and state leaders, the party has decided to continue with Yeddyurappa as chief minister of Karnataka," BJP president Nitin Gadkari said in a statement on Wednesday. He added that Yeddyurappa has denied the allegations against him.

The decision follows days of uncertainty during which Yeddyurappa struck a defiant pose against the opposition as well as detractors within the BJP.

He twice refused summons to come to New Delhi for talks with the party’s central leadership, before arriving in the national capital on Monday evening. Since then, he has been trying to impress upon the party that he is irreplacable as its leader in Karnataka.

In a letter to Gadkari on Tuesday, Yeddyurappa said he had led the BJP “to victory in the state assembly elections, Lok Sabha elections, assembly by-elections and the municipal polls". Speaking to reporters, he had also said he would discuss the proximity of Karnataka’s panchayat polls in talks with the national leadership. Lingayats, who constitute 14-19% of Karnataka’s electorate, are likely to play a crucial role in the polls. Some Lingayat leaders have already spoken publicly in Yeddyurappa’s support. “There was too much concern about succession as well as the party’s fate post-Yeddurappa," said a BJP leader, requesting anonymity. “At the end of it, in the trade-off between opposition attacks and the risk of losing its first ever government in the south, the leadership obviously chose to keep its government safe."

This will, however, weaken the?campaign?of the BJP?against the Union government on a range of corruption issues.

Along with the Left, the BJP has been stalling the ongoing winter session of Parliament demanding joint parliamentary committee investigations into alleged corruption in the allocation of second-generation mobile spectrum, preparation for the Delhi Commonwealth Games and construction of Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi was quick to attack the BJP for retaining Yeddyurappa. She said the Congress made Shashi Tharoor and Ashok Chavan resign as minister of state for external affairs and Maharashtra chief minister, respectively, in the wake of corruption charges this year.

Political analyst Sandeep Shastri said retaining Yeddyurappa was a realistic move for the BJP. “It was a question of survival of the party in Karnataka as well as south India. In spite the BJP’s high moral stand in various scams, the need of the hour was to preserve the stability of the base, though it is a reluctant appeasement," he said.

“Sacking BSY (Yeddyurappa’s initials) meant admission of guilt and the BJP’s moral stand on scams would not allow the party to do so," said another political observer Harish Bijoor. “Also, he is a prominent Lingayat leader in BJP. When everything revolves around caste in Karnataka, finding a successor for him is a difficult task."

Yeddyurappa returned to Bangalore on Wednesday, where he said he would complete his full term as chief minister. “I will henceforth focus on development and win majority in next assembly elections," he said.


PTI contributed to this story.