The indication that Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa is getting set to step down has triggered speculation on who will succeed him. Though the ball is in the court of the Bharatiya Janata Party high command, which is known to make surprise decisions, State political circles are abuzz with different theories and formulae that will be at play while making the choice.
The foremost question is whether the high command would want to appoint a Lingayat leader to assuage the feelings of the community, especially because it constitutes a big support base. The party is yet to forget the defeat suffered by it in the 2013 Assembly polls after a portion of the Lingayat vote base drifted away from it when Mr. Yediyurappa had severed links with it to float a new political outfit. Seers from the community are said to be trying to send a similar message this time too by rallying behind Mr. Yediyurappa.
If this is the line of thinking, then Mines and Geology Minister and sugar baron Murugesh Nirani may be a contender, say insiders. Mr. Nirani has been making repeated Delhi visits to meet central leaders, including Home Minister Amit Shah. He hails from the Panchamashali sect, which is dominant among Lingayats. Another Lingayat MLA Arvind Bellad, who had been demanding leadership change, too has camped in Delhi.
From Sangh Parivar
However, one section feels that it is important not to be confined by community calculations alone and stress on its Hindutva ideological base while picking a successor.
Among the names doing the rounds in this category are BJP national general secretary C.T. Ravi, a Vokkaliga, another dominant community in Karnataka. The party old guards, who are of the view that “outsiders” who have entered the BJP through ‘Operation Kamala’ have been getting a major share of power and “diluting” ideology, are pitching for this line of thinking. The name of Deputy Chief Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan, another Vokkaliga, is also being floated.
Some party hard-liners are of the view that the party should bring someone from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh like how it brought Narendra Modi to the post of Gujarat Chief Minister in 2001. They argue it is necessary for damage control and retain its traditional support base. Such people are pitching for party national general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santhosh, a Brahmin. But it is not clear whether the party central leadership would relieve a key strategist.
Another section of the party feels that Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, also a Brahmin, could be an option, considering his “clean image and administrative prowess”.
A young face
A party strategist said the high command appeared to be looking for, after all things considered, a relatively younger leader, preferably in the 50s and definitely not someone over 65, who is here for the long haul.
“ This will be the moment of generational shift in the State unit and the party is looking at someone who has the potential to lead the party for at least the next 10 years,” he said. Many of the probables whose names are doing the rounds are in their 50s: Mr. Joshi, 58; Mr. Nirani, 56; Mr. Ravi, 54; Dr. Ashwath Narayan, 52; and Mr. S anthosh and Mr. Bellad, 51.