Amit Shah holds Yediyurappa in check with three Dy CMs

Amit Shah holds Yediyurappa in check with three Dy CMs

Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa hands over the party flag to the new Karnataka BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel in front of BJP head office near Malleshwaram in Bengaluru on Tuesday. BJP general secretary and state in-charge P Muralidhar Rao among other BJP

In one stroke, BJP president Amit Shah has sent multiple messages to the Karnataka unit of the party by cutting many heavyweights to size and imposing three deputy chief ministers on Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, much against his will. The warning is loud and clear: nobody is indispensable, rather, everybody is expendable. The appointment of three deputy CMs -- Govind Karjol, C H Ashwathnarayan and Laxman Savadi -- representing three major communities -- Scheduled Castes, Vokkaligas and Lingayats, respectively -- is not only aimed at establishing a second line of leadership but also at clipping Yediyurappa’s wings by creating many power centres within the government. Until now, it has been a one-man show in the state BJP, with no leader being able to emerge from under Yediyurappa’s over-bearing shadow.

The most significant appointment is that of Savadi, who during his previous term as minister was forced to resign after being caught on television cameras watching porn in the Assembly. Having lost the 2018 Assembly elections from Athani in Belagavi district to Mahesh Kumatahalli of Congress, Savadi is not even a legislator now. Kumatahalli, who was among the 17 MLAs who were disqualified after they resigned to bring down the Kumaraswamy government, is now left high and dry. This is perhaps Shah’s way of telling the disgruntled lot that they cannot take the BJP for granted and will have to wait to be rewarded, if at all. The promotion of Savadi, a light weight leader in the BJP, also serves as a notice to the powerful political families of Belagavi, the Jarkhiholis and Kattis, that their writ will no longer run in the party and district. Above all, with Savadi too a Lingayat, this is a not-so-subtle signal to Yediyurappa that he better not be up to any tricks.

By demoting R Ashok and K S Eshwarappa, who were deputy CMs in the previous BJP government, and by promoting juniors over them, Shah has sought to establish that he is capable of finding fresh alternatives. Both Ashok and Ashwathnarayan are Vokkaligas and represent big constituencies in Bengaluru. Eshwarappa, a Kuruba who has been trying to project himself as the party’s face of the backward classes, has been pipped to the post by Karjol. Yediyurappa himself has been facing continuous humiliation from day one, with the high command refusing to subscribe to his decisions. Shah’s strategy, it appears, is not to ensure the longevity of the Yediyurappa government, but to prepare the BJP for mid-term elections under a new leader.