Karnataka bypolls: Results a mixed bag for Chief Minister Yediyurappa

The results of the Assembly elections in five States and the three bypolls in Karnataka seem to be a mixed bag for Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa.

Failing to get defector Pratapgouda Patil re-elected despite the poll efforts being spearheaded by his son B.Y. Vijayendra is seen as a setback for him. The Belagavi contest going down to the wire and the Congress putting up an “unexpected” tough fight has exposed the party’s weakness on the ground, the Chief Minister’s detractors argue. “The COVID-19 crisis may have also had an impact on the government’s popularity,” a senior party leader said.

However, Mr. Yediyurappa’s camp credits his leadership and the support of the Lingayat vote base for the party’s victories in Belagavi and Basavakalyan. “The Shiv Sena–Congress alliance in Maharashtra has had a fallout in Belagavi. Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti, which polled over one lakh votes, played spoiler for the BJP. It was the Lingayat vote base that ensured the party won,” said a senior Minister.

Meanwhile, the political fallout of the Assembly elections in the five States is also being closely watched for subtle indicators of the party high command’s inclination to effect a leadership change in the State. Dissenting BJP leader Basanagouda Patil Yatnal had recently predicted a leadership change after these polls.

The results in Assam and West Bengal seem to have enthused the Chief Minister’s camp. “The contrast of results in Assam and West Bengal leads to an inference on the key role played by strong regional leadership with a connect to the masses, or its lack thereof — a case we are also making to retain Mr. Yediyurappa. He remains the only mass leader of his stature for the party in the State,” said an associate of the CM.

The BJP high command had appointed Mr. Yediyurappa as the State unit chief in 2016, paving the way for him to lead the party in the 2018 polls and later become Chief Minister. This was seen in light of the party’s defeats in the Delhi and Bihar Assembly polls in 2015, where it drew the same inference: the importance of strong local leadership.

No hat-trick

Meanwhile, Mr. Vijayendra, who had acquired a reputation for successful election management with victories in difficult seats of K.R. Pet and Sira, has been denied a “hattrick” with the party’s defeat in Maski.

Conceding defeat early in the day, he said, “Failure is the stepping stone to success.” He also assured party workers in Maski that he would stand by them. His success rate in turning around difficult seats had earned him political clout and it was believed that a victory here would have raised his stakes in the party as age caught up with his father. “A section of the party was not comfortable with his rise,” said a leader close to him, refusing to elaborate.

“Mr. Vijayendra has been good at social engineering at a micro level. But his modus operandi is to overwhelm a constituency with resources. But that doesn’t always work. There seems to be a new school that sees elections as a management problem. I hope this defeat makes him see it is more than that,” said a senior BJP leader, who did not wish to be named.

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