It is a truism in Indian politics that ruling parties usually do well in by-elections because they control the administrative machinery. However, it would be a mistake to dismiss the victory in two specific assembly segments that the BJP has won in the last one year in Karnataka.
However it is true that since November 2019 there have been 17 by-elections in the state and BJP has won 14.. However, the saffron party won the KR Pete seat and the Kera seat last year. The reasons for that are quite straightforward.
The BJP has long been seen as a ‘Lingayat’ party, mainly due to the leadership of Yeddyurappa, which belongs to the community. With 17 percent Lingayat population in the state, the party has also benefitted from this notion.
The second is that the BJP has been a North Karnataka party with about 81 out of 104 MLAs in the 2018 assembly elections coming from that part of the state.
It has historically been vulnerable to what is seen as the ‘Old Mysuru region’ – which included the districts ruled by the Mysuru Wodeyar dynasty – and which incidentally is also dominated by the Vokkaliga community.
Vokkaligas, with about 13 per cent of the state’s population, are not only the second largest community, but they are largely immune to the BJP’s attractiveness despite the party’s best efforts. The JDS has always supported the community’s cause and whenever the party has fallen out of favor, Vokkaliga has tried to support the Congress.
For the BJP, which remained 10 seats short of a simple majority in 2008 and in 2018, there is a need to expand its social base, particularly in the Old Mysuru region and among the Vokkaliga if it wants to dominate state politics.
This is where Sira wins in KR Pete and Tumkuru in Mandya district last year are now important. Both are Vokkaliga dominated and are in the old Mysuru region. Both are seen as strongholds of the Janata Dal (Secular) and receive alternating power between the regional party and the Congress.
In both the battles, the BJP entrusted Vijayendra, the vice president of the Youth Party, to win those seats. When last year, KR Pete, where JD (S) was the turn-key Narayan Gowda who helped the BJP break away from the Congress-JDS alliance, the JD (S) vowed revenge. Vijayvendra ensured the victory of Narayan Gowda against the odds but it was dismissed as a flux.
Now, Vijayendra has repeated the feat in Sira where the BJP had never come second and had lost most of the last elections. By ensuring the victory of his candidate Rajesh Gowda, Vijayendra has proved that he wants to see someone in Karnataka politics.
It has helped that he is the son of Chief Minister Yeddyurappa. At the age of 45, he is very young by political standards, outspoken and has his father’s habit of taking people with him.
While his elder brother BY Raghavendra, MP from Shivamogga, is more reserved, Vijayendra is seen as more accessible by party workers and the public.
Given the political prowess displayed so far, most analysts and even political opponents believe that it is Vijayendra who will inherit Yeddyurappa’s political legacy. Vijayendra recently dismissed such speculation in a conversation with HT, stating that the family is united and there is no internal rivalry.
But it is also clear that Vijayendra is trying to carve a niche for himself and break out of his father’s shadow. Vijayendra is not without controversies on his part, the opposition accusing him of being a super CM and also indulging in corruption, which he called “the price of being a bridge between the CM and the people as well as party workers”. . .
For Vijayendra, Basava is a link to contest the Kalyan by-election, which is likely to happen in the next few months. Congress MLA Narayan Rao died due to Kovid and BJP will have to find a candidate for the seat.
Even in the 2018 assembly election, Vijayendra was an aspirant for Varuna constituency, which was eventually won by another former CM’s son, Yatindra Siddaramaiah. Even CM Yeddyurappa dismissed the assertion that Vijayendra Basava would field from Kalyan, the ambitious son himself being more careful and saying that “he will take on any responsibility given by the party”.
For Vijayendra, the challenge will be to maintain his identity outside of his father Yeddyurappa as well as gain his political legacy as leaders of Lingayats and beyond. How successful he was in this journey will determine his political future.
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