Yeddy's acquittal in bribery case: how it will shape Karnataka BJP's future

Ramakrishna Upadhya @rkupadhya9 | Updated on: 29 October 2016, 10:41 IST
Court clears Yeddyurappa and family in bribery case
Court clears Yeddyurappa and family in bribery case (Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times/Getty Images)

The acquittal of former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa and his family members in the Rs 40 crore bribery case by a special CBI court in Bengaluru has come as a major relief to him. But, politically, it is unlikely to change his status within the Bharatiya Janata Party at the moment.

After the verdict in this extremely dicey case, which, at one point of time, threatened to finish his political career, Yeddyurappa tweeted: "Satyameva Jayate. Justice is done. I stand vindicated."

It was, of course, truth and justice as he saw it.

The relief was not only for Yeddyurappa, but also his two sons, BV Raghavendra and BV Vijayendra, son-in-law Sohan Kumar, and a host of senior officials of JSW Steel, who were co-accused, but were all acquitted.

Yeddyurappa was reinstated by the BJP as state president last April to lead the party to the polls in 2018. He's expected to play the 'victim' card to garner votes, just as he had used the 'betrayal' card to win the 2008 Assembly elections.

The BJP wouldn't mind that, as long as it generates some sympathy for him and translates into votes. But Yeddyurappa himself would be conscious of the fact that the dynamics within the party have changed drastically since 2013, and that he is no longer considered the 'undisputed' leader within the state BJP.

Rift and reconciliation

The BJP is a party with an elephantine memory. Yeddyurappa had left it just before the 2013 elections and formed the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP), vowing to 'destroy' the BJP's prospects in the polls. Though his own party suffered humiliation, winning only five seats, he managed to achieve his goal of 'teaching BJP a lesson' by garnering 10% of the votes, and indirectly helping the Congress to return to power.

In a rare cases of early reconciliation, Yeddyurappa returned to the BJP in time for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He helped the party to consolidate the Narendra Modi wave to win 18 of the 28 seats in the states. Whether the Lingayats, the influential community Yeddyurappa belongs to, rallied behind him is a matter of conjecture, but the election outcome certainly helped him to restore his credibility within the BJP ranks.

Yeddyurappa's return, when the past animosities had not yet dissipated, caused much consternation in the party. There is no denying the fact that most senior leaders, including Ananth Kumar, Jagadish Shettar, Sadananda Gowda, KS Eshwarappa and R Ashok, continue to be hostile to him.

Yeddyurappa and his son Raghavendra have been elected to the Lok Sabha, but he has made no secret of his desire to remain in state politics. For almost two years, the party paid no heed to his supporters' demand to reinstate him as state president till Prahlad Joshi, a low-profile MP who had replaced Yeddyurappa, completed his term.

Before his elevation as president, the BJP had to take two vital aspects into consideration. Apart from a lack of reconciliation over his leadership, there was also the problem of the legal issues he faced. There were a number of court cases pending against him, and a possible adverse decision in any one of them could leave the party red-faced.

In March this year, however, the Karnataka High Court quashed about 15 cases against him, relating to denotification of land. As there seemed to be no better alternative to Yeddyurappa, the Modi-Amit Shah duo lost no time in handing back the reins to him, taking all his detractors by surprise.

Dictatorial regime