Several leaders hail fighting spirit of Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, the Lingayat strongman
Bengaluru: Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s 77th birthday celebrations at the sprawling Palace Grounds in Bengaluru last evening provided a rare sight, that of bonhomie between political opponents — and some honest confessions too.
If former Chief Ministers S.M. Krishna and Siddharamaiah praised Yediyurappa for his fighting spirit, BJP National General Secretary (Organisation) B.L. Santhosh, who is not known to share a cosy equation with Yediyurappa, acknowledged the latter’s role in building the party up from scratch in Karnataka.
With a green shawl draped over his shoulder and a silver plough in his hands, surrounded by Party colleagues and friends from politics, Yediyurappa celebrated his birthday at the gala event that was organised by his family. Hundreds of supporters and fans flocked to Palace Grounds to felicitate Yediyurappa.
Banners wishing the Chief Minister lined the roads leading to the venue. Carefully themed to reflect the colours of the BJP, an image of a smiling Yediyurappa set in a saffron background welcomed his well-wishers. For a man who broke the BJP’s unstated age limit of 75 years for any elected post, Yediyurappa’s 77th birthday bash saw him asserting himself as a mass leader whose charisma and connect with the people and party is undiminished.
Apart from Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Yediyurappa’s Cabinet colleagues, MPs and Union Ministers from Karnataka, D.V. Sadananda Gowda, Pralhad Joshi and Suresh Angadi, Central leaders of the BJP including Muralidhar Rao, writer Dr. Siddalingaiah came together to wish the BJP leader.
The high point of the event, however, was Congress veteran and Opposition leader in the Karnataka Assembly, Siddharamaiah, who released a coffee table book. Putting aside political differences, the former CM recalled their debut in the Legislative Assembly in the 1980s and how their journeys have been similar. “Yediyurappa did not become Chief Minister overnight. He has had to struggle, much like me, having ventured into the rough and tumble of politics with no background in the field,” Siddharamaiah said.
“Yediyurappa is one of the few leaders in Karnataka who understands the State well. If BJP has come to power in Karnataka, it is no doubt because of Yediyurappa. As the CM, he will face tremendous pressure and I wish him strength to withstand it,” said Siddharamaiah.
Human relations important
Siddharamaiah saw a bit of himself and his journey in Yediyurappa too. “Yediyurappa did not become a CM straight away. In 1983, we entered the Assembly. I became a Chief Minister five years after he did. He took oath as CM four times; I took oath only once. Both of us had no political lineage. We both came from ordinary families. But, we fought our way through. Only those who come through struggle can understand the problems of the common man,” he said.
“Politics does not beckon any one. You choose to enter politics,” he added, saying that he was here to wish the CM on an important milestone in his life. “We oppose each other ideologically. Politics is different but human relations are important,” Siddharamaiah said.
Former External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna recounted his long association with Yediyurappa. “He is short-tempered but his anger does not last long” said Krishna, recalling Yediyurappa’s stint as the leader of Opposition.
“Yediyurappa has a special trait. He keeps his word. In politics, often we cannot keep our promises owing to different kinds of pressures. But Yediyurappa is an exception. I am happy to see that this event is cutting across party lines. This is how politics should be. This kind of reconciliation beyond political considerations is akin to Karnataka. It is our tradition and we are here to uphold it,” said Krishna.
B.L. Santhosh was all praises
B.L. Santhosh recounted the days when both Yediyurappa and Ananth Kumar worked hard to strengthen the party. “BJP has its presence in all the States as we have committed party workers. But, if the party has not come to power in southern States, unlike Karnataka, it is because they do not have a leader like Yediyurappa,” said Santhosh.
Santhosh, often referred to as Yediyurappa’s bête noire, was all praise for not just the CM, but also his late wife Mythradevi who, he recalled, had served him food several times during his time as RSS Pracharak. Santhosh was also the only invitee who credited Yediyurappa’s family for the event as well as giving him the strength to lead.
Poet Dr. Siddalingaiah, in the felicitation speech, compared the journey of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and that of Yediyurappa, saying, “I believe that a chaiwala becoming the PM of this country, and the son of a vegetable vendor becoming the CM, was possible only because of democracy.”
“Yediyurappa-ji is a born fighter. ‘Once a fighter always a fighter’ and Yediyurappa has played an important role in strengthening the party organisation at the grass roots in Karnataka. He has always fought for people’s cause,” said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
CM recalls Vajpayee
Yediyurappa thanked his well wishers for making it a special occasion and also recalled his 60th birthday celebration, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee had graced the felicitation ceremony. “This time, I am honoured to have Defence Minister Rajnath Singh gracing this occasion,” he said.
Remembering the late Ananth Kumar, Yediyurappa said, “Ananth Kumar had a big role in BJP’s growth in Karnataka. We criss-crossed the State on a bicycle to build the party and I have many challenges to face and works to be accomplished. I am sure I will get the necessary support from my party colleagues and the cooperation from the Opposition leader Siddharamaiah.”
While most of his Cabinet colleagues were present at the event, seniors like K.S. Eshwarappa, Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi and B. Sriramulu gave it a miss, but not before personally wishing the CM. A souvenir ‘Danivariyada Dheemantha’ was also released at the event.