Bangalore, July 28: From a rice mill clerk and a farmers’ leader to heading the first BJP Government in the South, B S Yeddyurappa has been a master survivor emerging unscathed through much turbulence in his three years in office before the Lokayukta report on illegal mining scam did him in.
Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa(68), who completed three years and two months in office as the first saffron party chief minister of Karnataka, ushered in a bumper harvest for the BJP in the state during the 2008 Assembly Elections.
Always sporting his trademark white safari suit, he was also briefly the Chief Minister in November 2007 before the coalition government with JD(S) collapsed following what he called “betrayal” by its leader and his predecessor H D Kumaraswamy.
Yeddyurappa, who had to juggle with one crisis or the other, has shown his skills as a political survivor, overcoming adversities emanating from within his own party and the combined Congress-JD(S) onslaught to oust him over alleged land scams.
Learning initial steps of leadership, development of mass base and human resource management from the RSS, it has been a fascinating journey dotted with many struggles for the devout Lingayat who believed that the gods are on his side.
He went on to apply these pragmatic lessons in action when he decided to lead various mass movements in the state, highlighting the problems faced by landless farmers and bonded labourers.
Yeddyurappa never misses an opportunity to visit temples when he is confronted by crisis but he was not lucky this time after he was severely indicted by Lokayukta Santosh Hegde on corruption charges. He was named after presiding deity of a Shaivite temple built by the saint Siddalingeshwar at Yedeyur, in Tumkur district.
On a couple of occasions before his fate was almost sealed but Yeddyurappa had the last laugh as he battled a spate of allegations of multi-crore land scams, nepotism and open violation of rules to favour his kith and kin.
Yeddyurappa managed to rally round his party MPs and loyalists after remaining defiant and keeping the top brass guessing on his moves when he was once asked to resign by the BJP leadership.
Yeddyurappa, whose end as chief minister once seemed almost certain, with a smug opposition and his detractors within the party triumphant over delivering what they believed were deadly blows, has managed to carry the day with the party asking him to stay on.
A graduate in arts, Yeddyurappa once warned the central leadership that his exit would mean the end of the party government as well, a threat which made the senior leaders to do a rethink on their decision before to ask him to quit. Sometimes. he also brought out an ace up his sleeve, the Lingayat caste card.
He belongs to the Lingayat community which constitute nearly a fifth of the population in Karnataka and also a strong support base for the BJP. He also managed to rally influential seers around him, and got them to support him.
In November 2010, Yeddyurappa was alleged to have used his position as Chief Minister to unfairly favour his sons in the allotment of prime land in Bangalore triggering another
round of crisis. On February 5, 2011, Yeddyurappa publicly declared his assets, and then challenged the opposition and the Congress to find any “black money”.
Yeddyurappa, who began his rule on sticky wicket in May 2008 falling short of a majority in the Assembly, cobbled up a slender majority by luring opposition MLAs and independents who were made to resign and contest bypolls.
His gambit called ‘Operation Lotus’ paid off in enabling the BJP to secure the majority in the 224-member House.
But the troubles did not seem to die down with the powerful Reddy brothers, ministers and mining magnates—
Janardhana and Karunakara—launching a campaign for his removal.
The BJP High Command’s intervention ensured his survival before another wave of dissidence engulfed his government.
As many as 11 BJP rebel MLAS and five independents withdrew support to his government, pushing it to a precipice.
This too he survived, winning the trust vote twice— the first one, carried by voice vote, called unconstitutional by Governor H R Bhardwaj forcing him to face another floor test which he won by 106-100 votes.
Yeddyurappa, who was often at loggerheads with Bhardwaj, went down in the Indian Legislative history to be the only chief minister to survive two trust motions in a week’s time.
Just as he seemed to have surmounted the crisis with the High Court verdict upholding the disqualification of 11 rebel MLAs coming as a shot in the arm, trouble erupted again as the JDS levelled a series of allegations about land scams involving his family.
He rose to prominence when he helped JD(S)’ Kumaraswamy to bring down the coalition government of Dharam Singh of Congress. Kumaraswamy formed the government with the help of the BJP headed by Yeddyurappa.
A deal was struck between the JD(S) and BJP, which specified that Kumaraswamy would be the Chief Minister for the first 20 months, after which Yeddyurappa would succeed him for the remaining 20 months of the tenure of the Legislature. Yeddyurappa was nominated as the Deputy Chief Minister as well as the finance minister in Kumaraswamy’s Government.
However in October 2007, when Yeddyurappa’s turn of becoming the Chief Minister was supposed to start, Kumaraswamy refused to resign from his post.
This forced Yeddyurappa and all of the ministers from his party to resign and on October 5, he met the governor and formally withdrew the BJP’s support from the government. Karnataka was put under President’s rule which was revoked on November 7.
During the period of the President’s rule, the JD(S) and the BJP decided to bury their differences and this paved the way for Yeddyurappa to become the Chief Minister.
Yeddyurappa was sworn in on November 12, 2007. However, JDS refused to support his government over disagreement on sharing of ministries which made him resign from his post on November 19, 2007.