I tried to get Jagadish Shettar ticket, but BJP leadership had other plans, says Yediyurappa

The former Chief Minister of Karnataka and BJP stalwart talks about his role in campaigning, the election manifesto and of recent allegations against the party in the State.

Updated - April 30, 2023 07:01 pm IST

Published - April 29, 2023 09:04 pm IST

Former Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have spared no opportunity to publicly acknowledge Mr. Yediyurappa’s stature in Karnataka’s politics.

Former Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have spared no opportunity to publicly acknowledge Mr. Yediyurappa’s stature in Karnataka’s politics. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

B.S. Yediyurappa stepped down as Chief Minister of Karnataka to make way for Basavaraj Bommai on July 26, 2021, with tears in his eyes. Though projected as a “voluntary” move, it was widely seen as part of an effort to shift the power centre in the State unit of the party away from the regional satrap and Lingayat strongman. However, since then, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister Amit Shah have spared no opportunity to publicly acknowledge Mr. Yediyurappa’s stature in Karnataka’s politics and have made him member of the Central Parliamentary Board and central election committee of the party.

Though he has announced his retirement from electoral politics, his son B.Y. Vijayendra was named BJP candidate from his old constituency, Shikaripura, in Shivamogga district in south Karnataka. Mr. Yediyurappa’s role ahead of the Assembly election has come to be particularly highlighted after former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar and former Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi, both Lingayats who constitute the traditional vote bank of the party, rebelled and joined the Congress after being denied ticket. Mr. Yediyurappa has been entrusted with the task of quelling rebellion and ensuring that Lingayat votes do not drift away from the BJP. The 80-year-old is currently busy touring north Karnataka districts where Lingayats are in large numbers.

Excerpts:

The BJP is going into the elections with senior leaders like former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar and former Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi having quit, alleging that BJP was suppressing Lingayats by denying them tickets. What do you say about it as a community leader?

We had given every position and honour to Mr. Shettar, including that of Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly. If he had any grievances, he could have discussed with us. We had told him that party leadership was not ready to field him in the elections for various reasons. We had asked him to enter national politics and become a Union Minister. We had also told him to field his wife in the Assembly Elections, if he was keen. Despite all these assurances, he quit the party.

Similarly, we made Mr. Savadi a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) and then Deputy Chief Minister. You should know that he had completed only 10 months of the six-year MLC term. He might have been made Minister or given other positions. He left the party for selfish reasons and the people will teach him a lesson.

It is said that you personally tried very hard to ensure a ticket for Mr. Shettar?

Yes, I put in all my effort. But, the party’s central leadership had other plans. It did not give tickets to K. S. Eshwarappa, Mr. Shettar and many other leaders this time. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had decided to give more tickets to young party workers.

There are strong allegations that B. L. Santosh is responsible for the rebellions in BJP. What is your opinion?

Such allegations have no value. As a full-timer, Mr. Santosh is working round the clock for strengthening the party. Unable to tolerate it, some are making such allegations.

At the fag-end of your government’s tenure in the State, you scrapped the 4% reservation to Muslims and distributed it among the Lingayats and Vokkaligas. How does the move help the BJP in the election?

Scrapping the 4% reservation meant for Muslims and distributing 2% each to Lingayats and Vokkaligas, apart from increasing the reservations to other communities such as SCs and STs, will 100% help us. It is a historic decision and everybody is welcoming it. This will certainly help us in the election.

But, the Lambani (Banjara) community is opposing your decision on internal reservations within the SCs. There were big protests in your old constituency Shikaripura.

There is nothing serious in that. We have treated everyone equally and we will see that no injustice is meted out to anybody.

In the last 38 years, no ruling party has won the election with full majority and retained power in Karnataka. What do you say about this?

We will break that tradition. There can be no doubt that we are winning the elections and returning to power.

The Congress is raising issues of corruption and inflation in a big way. What according to you are the major issues for this election?

We are talking of only development. We are seeking the people’s mandate showing the programmes that the Narendra Modi-led government gave to Karnataka apart from those implemented by the Basavaraj Bommai-led government in the State. Our campaign is based on development. False propaganda carries no value. The allegations of 40% commission will backfire on those who are raising it. We will definitely form a government with a clear majority.

At the age of 80, you are touring the State and campaigning. Does your health permit it?

No problem at all. I am campaigning from morning to night 9 p.m. I am getting a great welcome everywhere. The more people gather, the more I am working with enthusiasm. I will be touring the State till May 7 and will be in Shikaripura on May 8 and 9.  

You have fought many elections in your political career. In the last few elections, you led the party as its Chief Ministerial candidate. In this election, you are playing a very different role. How do you feel?

I resigned as Chief Minister voluntarily. Nobody pressurised me. At a time when people were not ready to step down from a Gram Panchayat president’s post, I resigned as Chief Minister. Not just that, I had declared that I would not contest any election anymore but work for the party. The people accepted and welcomed my decision. I got inspiration from their support and love. Wherever I go people regard me as ‘our Yediyurappa.’ I don’t need anything more. I am happy.

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