Even as seventeen members of the Bharatiya Janata Party had been sworn in as cabinet ministers, the party National President appointed Dakshina Kannada member of parliament Nalin Kumar Kateel as the state party president.
He takes the baton from Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa whose term expired three months ago.
In a communication sent to the state unit on Tuesday (August 20), BJP’s national general secretary Arun Singh informed that the appointment comes into affect immediately.
Although the unrest in the region over not having any ministerial representation despite having given the party a clean sweep in the elections did reduce with the news of Kateel’s appointment, the appointment of Kateel is being seen as more of a power statement than a consolation to the region.
An unexpected development in the current state politics, Kateel’s appointment came as a surprise to many in the party.
His closeness to B L Santosh is touted as the reason for him having been given the post despite many senior and performing party leaders being in the queue for the post which was until now held by Yediyurappa.
He was earlier entrusted with the responsibility of Kerala for the past three years as a Saha Prabhari. The coast has seen mixed reactions to Kateel’s appointment as the three time MP is not in the best of books of ideologically oriented party voters in the region.
Kateel has won from the coastal district with a huge margin but a section of pro-Hindutva party loyalists who had also opposed him being reissued a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections this time around also took to social media questioning the decision.
Three years ago when B S Yeddyurappa took on the role too, there had been speculations of Kateel’s name being lobbied for the same.
Kateel has courted controversy multiple times with his speeches and tweets be it his remark on Godse comparing him to Kasab and Rajiv Gandhi, or when he said the entire district would be set ablaze if the culprits were not nabbed in the murder case of Karthik Raj(2017).
While the former had him issue an apology and withdraw his tweet, the latter got him into serious legal trouble. Just two weeks ago, a Bengaluru court issued a non-bailable warrant against him for not appearing for a hearing pertaining to the case of provocative speech.
Be that as it may, the appointment of a state president who belongs to neither of the power-wielding communities (Lingayats and vokkaligas), purely on the basis of his Sangh and Hindutva background does say a lot about the party’s choices for the reorientation of the party’s ecosystem, which was for long the Lingayat strongman’s bastion.
This appointment has also put to rest speculations regarding appointment of Mahadevpura MLA Aravind Limbavali, whose exclusion from the cabinet was an equal surprise to the state party cardre.
While it definitely marks the beginning of a reduced Lingayat power quotient within the party’s state faction, it is also another subtle yet strong reminder of the BLS versus BSY politics within the party.
Even though the septuagenarian holds the Chief Ministerial post, one can clearly notice who is the one calling the shots.
But it isn’t an easy task easy for Kateel either as the state BJP unit is as factionalised as one can imagine and the Lingayat strongman had held it together owing to his experience of over five decades of experience as a grass-roots worker.