The assembly elections in Karnataka still 12 days away, the BJP’s presumptive Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa has already picked a date for his oath ceremony. The 75-year-old, however, added that the final call will depend on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s schedule. “I will be sworn in on the 17th or 18th, based on the PM’s convenience. Both are good days,” Mr Yeddyurappa told NDTV on Monday, while campaigning Mandya, a district where he was born.
The show of confidence by the veteran leader comes amid the predictions of a hung assembly most exit polls, where neither BJP, nor the Congress get clear majority. The recent poll of polls – an average of several opinion poll results — has given 86 seats to the BJP and 94 to the Congress in the 224-member assembly, which places former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular) in a deciding position.
The former chief minister, however, insists that the BJP won’t need help from the JD(S) to form government. An earlier coalition between the two parties had ended bitterly when the JD(S) chief minister, HD Kumaraswamy, refused to honour their agreement and make way for BS Yeddyurappa halfway through the term. Mr Deve Gowda and Mr Kumaraswamy have both ruled out an alliance with the BJP.
Mr Yeddyurappa had led the BJP to its victory in Karnataka in the 2008 assembly elections, helping it to find a foothold in the south. The party lost in 2013 after its government got mired in massive corruption charges. Mr Yeddyurappa, who was forced to step down midway, had quit the party and formed his own – resulting in a resounding loss for the BJP in 2013.
Though he returned to the party a year later and has been pitched as its candidate for the state’s top job, there is speculation that he might be replaced once the party wins the elections. The view was reinforced by the sudden withholding of ticket for Mr Yeddyurappa’s son, BY Vijayendra, who was expecting to contest from a seat in Mysuru region.
Mr Yeddyurappa, who had claimed it was his decision to withhold his son’s candidature, scoffed at the idea. “There is absolutely no chance of my being replaced. Never before was a Chief Ministerial candidate declared so early,” he told NDTV.
The senior leader has been at the forefront of the planning. Party insiders say he has managed to push through his inner circle of supporters on the list of candidates. Foremost among them are the Reddy brothers – the mining barons for whom Bellary is a fiefdom – and their close aide B Sriramulu. Although mining scam accused Janardhan Reddy is not contesting, he is campaigning for the party and his brothers, both of whom have been given tickets.
The BJP has defended the decision as an exigency. Mr Yeddyurappa told NDTV, “I have to be careful with them because of the bad experience. But we need them. Janardhan Reddy will help us win Ballari.”
B Sriramulu, he said, is a tall leader and will defeat the chief minister in Badami. Badami is one of the two seats from where Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah is contesting.
Mr Yeddyurappa also said he does not approve of divisive comments made by some of the younger party colleagues like Ananth Kumar Hegde and Pratap Simha. He also expressed displeasure about the statement by Sanjay Patil, lawmaker from Belagavi Rural, who said the election was not about roads or drinking water, but Hindu-Muslim issues.
“He should not have said it. We should all be together, Hindus, Muslims, everybody. These statements upset the PM too,” he told NDTV.