Retirement plans scrapped along with talk of him being sidelined, former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Wednesday thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP leadership for his new assignment and pledged to help the party return to power in next year's state elections.
"I thank the central committee for inducting me into the Parliamentary Board. All top leaders of the BJP have given me this big responsibility. I never expected any position. After tendering my resignation to the Chief Minister, I had only one resolution - to bring BJP back to power along with the other leaders," he said at a news conference in Bengaluru.
"101 per cent we will be back in power in next elections. We will try to set up BJP in the rest of southern India. Will go all over India as expected by PM Modi," he told NDTV.
According to Mr Yediyurappa's office, the state BJP strongman spoke to PM Modi over the phone thanking him, and the Prime Minister, in turn, said his service was required to strengthen the party and bring it to power not only in Karnataka but all of South India.
I thank Prime Minister Shri @narendramodi Ji, Shri @JPNadda Ji and Shri @AmitShah Ji for giving me the opportunity to serve on @BJP4India Parliamentary Board & Central Election Committee. It is an honour to serve on the highest decision-making body of the party.— B.S.Yediyurappa (@BSYBJP) August 17, 2022
Mr Yediyurappa's inclusion in the BJP's highest decision-making body of the party, billed as a political comeback of sorts, is being seen as an attempt by the party to send out a message that it still respects the veteran leader.
It appeared to demonstrate the BJP is keen to utilise his experience and mentorship, amid allegations by some sections, especially the opposition Congress, about the Lingayat strongman being sidelined ahead of state elections next year.
The move will also help ensure that senior BJP leader BL Santosh, Mr Yediyurappa's bete noire, does not get a free hand in matters concerning their home state.
The move by the party leadership gains even more significance, as it comes following Mr Yediyurappa recently signalling the end of his innings in electoral politics by stating that he will vacate his Shikaripura assembly seat for his son BY Vijayendra.
Following the announcement about retiring from electoral politics, Union Home Minister Amit Shah met Mr Yediyurappa earlier this month during his visit to the state, and is said to have held discussions about his future.
BJP insiders said the leadership wanted to ensure that Mr Yediyurappa doesn't feel sidelined, as it fears adverse implications for the party in the polls, in the event of the veteran leader choosing to remain inactive.
It also gives Mr Yediyurappa an edge, as he looks to secure the political future of his younger son Vijayendra, his political heir apparent. Elder son BY Raghavendra is a Member of Parliament from Shivamogga.
"It is certainly an elevation for Yediyurappa, when everyone was expecting the end of his politics. The party certainly realises his need and strength and wants to utilise it. The leadership wants to keep him in good books and reap as much benefit as it can in favour of BJP during the assembly polls," a BJP functionary told news agency PTI.
By projecting that Mr Yediyurappa is being sidelined by BJP, the Congress had planned to attract the votes of Lingayats, the dominant community which forms the strong vote base of the party in the state, in their favour, a BJP leader said.
"Now, by inducting Yediyurappa into top decision-making bodies of the party, it has been completely outwitted now," they said.
Though Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai is also a Lingayat, the sway Mr Yediyurappa holds over the community cannot be disregarded, a leader said, adding, "He is still the tallest leader not only from the community, but he is also a mass leader."
In a major shake-up, the BJP on Wednesday dropped Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan from its parliamentary board, its top organisational body, and brought in six new members, including Mr Yediyurappa and Iqbal Singh Lalpura, first Sikh representative.