As B S Yeddyurappa takes on the role of Karnataka Chief Minister, we revisit the life and career of the man of the moment.
Uncertainty loomed large over the fate of the chief minister-designate till the eleventh hour after the Karnataka Assembly election threw open a hung assembly. But at 9am today (17 May), B S Yeddyurappa was sworn in as the twenty-fourth chief minister of Karnataka.
A green shawl wrapped around his shoulders, Yeddyurappa took oath, as administered by Governor Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala, and keeping with his “raita bandhu (farmer’s friend)” image, vowed to dispel his duties as the Chief Minister of the state.
As the most prominent Lingayat leader in the state, Yeddyurappa had to be the face of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign and chief ministerial candidate – especially in the wake of former chief minister Siddaramaiah and the Congress raking up the Lingayat issue, which involves a demand by the community to have a separate religion status. The dismal performance of the Congress, especially in the key Lingayat pockets, has proven yet again that the Lingayats, one of the state’s largest communities, back their tall leader.
The first time he was sworn in, Yeddyurappa had won the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) its first government in the south. When he walked out in 2011, 70 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) had left with him. Such was the might and hold of this farmer-leader. Which was why the party appointed him as BJP state president in 2016 despite the deflections in 2012, when he quit from the party and launched the Karnataka Janata Paksha. So this is his fourth stint as the state party chief. He previously held the position in 1988, 1990, and 1998. And proving the party’s faith in his capability, this time again he has ensured that the party is the single-largest in the state.
Even among the three parties that battled in the election, the strongest campaign involved the septuagenarian’s roadshow across the 224 constituencies with the “Parivartana Yatre”. The oldest of the chief minister aspirants, this is definitely Yeddyurappa’s last chance to claim the throne and he sure did all it takes to get there, which was evident from the smile he donned after he was sworn in. He was smiling through the national anthem too. Whether this was a smile of jubilation or one of nervousness owing to the pressure upon him to prove a majority, only he can tell.
Replicating what Prime Minister Narendra Modi did when he entered Lok Sabha, Yeddyurappa too offered his salutations, bowing down and paying his obeisance at the steps of Vidhana Soudha three times, as he became chief minister for the third time.
At 75, Yeddyurappa has had a long career behind him. Over five decades of being a karyakarta (party worker) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Yeddyurappa won state assembly elections for the first time, in 1983. The recent victory is his eighth stint as an MLA.
Not without a fall
Yeddyurappa’s biggest fall came when the Lokayukta indicted him in illegal mining cases, forcing him to step down. But just around the time of his return to the party as the state president in 2016, he was acquitted by a special court of the Central Bureau of Investigation. The land scam, in which he was accused of having allotted land to his sons’ company via denotification, saw him in judicial custody. It was the first time in the history of Karnataka that a sitting or former chief minister was issued an arrest warrant.
The allegations and legal hassles dented Yeddyurappa’s political image to some extent, but his stature as a farmer-leader (the focus of the campaign) was what overrode the scars. He promised to waive off farm loans within 24 hours of coming to power, and in a dramatic fashion, has done so too. Soon after he stepped into the Vidhan Soudha, he announced a waiver of up to Rs 1 lakh, which he says would be implemented within two days. He also said that the BJP would prove its majority within 15 days.
He may have emerged victorious, but the battle has only begun. Will the BJP be able to keep all its promises? Will it even form a government in the first place? And most importantly, will Yeddyurappa complete his term as chief minister this time around?
We will know in due course.