When was the last time you heard a member of parliament diss his own constituency as a "terror hub" as Tejasvi Surya did this week?
The answer is "never". Yet, instead of reprimanding the first-term MP, union Home Minister Amit Shah, promptly gave him additional fire power and political capital by allowing Surya to be one of his first visitors in his extended COVID-19 convalescence. Shah also accepted the 29-year-old's petition on investigating the alleged "terror hub".
Surya's comments left many BJP leaders dazed and confused except for B S Yediyurappa, the Chief Minister of Karnataka. The 77-year-old's well-honed alarm system, attuned to political coups (both engineering them and being vulnerable to them) flashed Code Red after Surya's salvo. There is little doubt for BSY, as he is known, and his cohort that the mission to embarrass him is engineered by B L Santosh, the RSS pracharak (full-timer) on lien to the BJP as General Secretary (Organization), the most powerful post in the party apart from president.
Santosh, whose home state is Karnataka, has never hidden his ambition to replace Yediyurappa, hoping to emulate the manner in which Narendra Modi transitioned to being Gujarat Chief Minister, says a senior BJP leader.
Surya is a surrogate for 50-something Santosh, say sources close to Yediyurappa. Santosh had ensured that Surya be named the BJP candidate from Bengaluru (South); Yediyurappa wanted to give the seat to veteran leader Ananth Kumar's widow, Tejaswini. Kumar had represented the constituency of Bengaluru (south) for nearly two decades.
Yediyurappa, whose career is studded with direct confrontations with detractors within and outside his party, is totally on the back foot. "Imagine his plight. A BJP leader trashes his own constituency and a BJP-ruled state and the Chief Minister is forced to keep mum. Yediyurappa is walking the political tight rope"," said. BSY supporter to me. Yediyurappa has already crossed the Modi and Shah-imposed age limit of 75 when senior leaders are put out to pasture.
Shah and Modi have never been particularly fond of BSY who is less obsequious with them that appears to have become customary within their party. BSY believes he is the only mass leader of his party in the South and deserves more credit than he gets for giving the BJP its first government in the region.
With age (and, allegedly Shah) catching up, BSY is seeking an upward trend for the political career of his son B Y Vijayendra, who is called "Super CM" by detractors. Seven months ago, seven BJP MLAs owing allegiance to Santoshwrote a letter to the BJP president accusing Vijayendra of running a parallel government and misusing his proximity to his father.
Santosh has convinced Shah that Vijayendra should not be his father's successor and that BSY's veto in Karnataka affairs should be taken away.
Since the Chief Minister can't vent publicly against the trio of Surya, Santosh and Shah, he attacked a news channel, Power TV, which recently aired a sting allegedly exposing acts of corruption by his relative. The Bengaluru police started an investigation against the channel on Monday. Sources close to BSY claim that the material for the sting operation was provided by a group of "disgruntled" BJP leaders.
Shah has already effectively shown BSY who is the boss by not giving in to earlier requests on cabinet expansion and rejecting Yediyurappa's Karnataka Rajya Sabha picks in favour of Santosh's choices.
Yediyurappa is holding out his favourite carrot (of a place in his cabinet) to his detractors hoping for a switch in allegiance. Yediyurappa told reporters yesterday that he would consult the BJP and expand his cabinet soon. This would be Yediyurappa's second trip this month as he had come earlier and met Modi and J P Nadda seeking the go-ahead for expansion.
As BSY circles his wagons, Santosh and Shah are breathing down his neck. Expect the proxy war to continue. The next public splash will be when the Karnataka assembly sessions starts. BSY will go down fighting, say his close aides.
(Swati Chaturvedi is an author and a journalist who has worked with The Indian Express, The Statesman and The Hindustan Times.)
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