Shettar- Yeddy, how long will the affair last?
When Nithin Gadkari said that they were changing the Chief Minister of Karnataka because they wanted to fight the elections next year under the leadership of a Lingayat it was clear that caste is the factor that dominates in Karnataka. B S Yeddyurappa and his camp finally did manage to have their say and installed Jagadish Shettar replacing D Sadananda Gowda as the Chief Minister of the state.
There is no denying that the BJP came to power in Karnataka largely on the support of the Lingayat vote bank which constitutes 17 per cent of the state’s 65 million population. Ever since Yeddyurappa who projected himself as the leader of the Lingayats in the state was asked to step down there has been a great deal of unhappiness among the Lingayat mutts in Karnataka. The mutts all through were very insistent that there would only be a Lingayat Chief Minister in Karnataka and no other candidate even if he is backed by a Lingayat would be good enough.
With Shettar coming in to replace Gowda the Lingayats may be happy, but the bigger question is whether this would erupt into another war between the two tallest Lingayat leaders in the BJP- Yeddyurappa and Shettar. Many political observers believe that the war between the two veterans of the state BJP is likely to erupt in a couple of months time and this would force the state to face the elections earlier than expected. Shettar who originally belonged to the anti Yeddyurappa camp appears to have joined him this time more for the sake of convenience and this is mainly because Yeddyurappa has the numbers on him to make or break the party.
Although Yeddyurappa is still considered to be the leader of the Lingayats at the moment, many feel that Shettar will start eroding into that base which is bound to upset Yeddyurappa. This will lead to another battle within the BJP according to political observers in Karnataka. What is interesting is that Shettar and Yeddyurappa are not natural allies. They have been at logger heads for many years now and Yeddyurappa did everything possible since winning the elections to keep Shettar at bay. The Shettar-Yeddyurappa affair for the moment is only due to a political compulsion.
When Yeddyurappa came to power, he made Shettar the speaker of the assembly and this was an attempt to keep him away from power. It was only after the Reddy brother staged a coup and threatened to bring Yeddyurappa down did he budge and make Shettar a cabinet minister. Those who have observed Yeddyurappa and Shettar closely have maintained that the two never shared a good relationship with each other. Yeddyurappa has always seen him as a threat. It was obvious when Yeddyurappa was asked to step down he had pitched for Sadananda Gowda as the Chief Minister as he saw no threat from him. Moreover Yeddyurappa who had been playing the Lingayat vote bank card all along decided to place a Vokkaliga (Gowda) instead of a Lingayat (Shettar) in the hot seat.
However for Yeddyurappa it went wrong. He trusted Gowda but he felt betrayed by him. There are however two versions to this story. The Gowda camp suggested that Yeddyurappa was impossible to handle and he had virtually become a super CM which was becoming very difficult for Gowda. However the Yeddyurappa faction claimed that Gowda had become cozy with Deve Gowda and was trying to build the Vokkaliga vote bank which was not good for the interests of the Lingayats in the state.
However this time around it was Yeddyurappa who finally made his arch rival Shettar the CM of the state. He had no choice but to propose the name of Shettar if he wanted to bring Gowda down. Even the anti Yeddyurappa camp ( Ananth Kumar and company) did not object too much to Shettar as he was their original candidate for Chief Minister. Moreover the advise of the mutts could not be avoided at any cost and they advised Yeddyurappa to play the role of a king maker and place a Lingayat leader as the Chief Minister.
With the appointment of Shettar, B S Yeddyurappa loses a big tool. He had always cribbed that the Lingayats who ensured that the BJP won would not spare the party during the next elections. Now he cannot crib about this since there is a Lingayat in the hot seat. Moreover this time around he will have to be very cautious as he cannot trouble Shettar much and if he does so then all the mutts would automatically support Shettar.
The manner in which Yeddyurappa conducts himself would decide his political future. In comparison to Shettar he is a more acceptable face today in the BJP. Yeddyurappa has corruption charges against him while Shettar has remained clean. Moreover Shettar is comparatively softer and easily approachable unlike Yeddyurappa who is short tempered and moody.
At the moment there is not likely to be any problem in the BJP as Shettar is most likely to oblige Yeddyurappa. However in the days to come Shettar is likely to build his base and make it stronger. There is no denying the fact that Shettar had secretely nurtured becoming a parallel force in the BJP and there is no better time for him to do so.