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With Basavaraj Bommai as new CM, BJP tries to reassure powerful Lingayat community in Karnataka

The announcement that Basavaraj Bommai will be the next Karnataka chief minister, made by his predecessor BS Yediyurappa, is a significant gesture to reassure the influential Lingayat community that their interests are safe with BJP and the party will not lose sight of them.

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Bommai is a Lingayat, and his elevation after the exit of BSY, seen as the tallest leader of the community, was crafted to try and ensure the support remains intact, given that it was a factor that helped make BJP a dominant force in Karnataka and gave it a foothold in the south.

The exit of Yediyurappa was anticipated for long and the BJP brass was equally committed to keeping BSY in good humour, keen not to repeat Congress’s mistake in the 1990s when it sacked Veerendra Patil as CM and paid a heavy electoral price.

BJP has kept in mind its own ham-handed removal of Yediyurappa in 2009 in the wake of adverse findings of the Lokayukta that saw him form his own front — Karnataka Janata Paksha — to contest the 2013 assembly polls, reducing the ruling BJP to third position. However, in the 2018 assembly polls, Yediyurappa was the BJP face and the party emerged as the single-largest party although it fell seven short of the majority mark.

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Settled largely in north and central Karnataka, Lingayat community constitutes over 20% of the state population. The pro-BSY sentiment of hundreds of Lingayat Maths made it clear to the BJP leadership that the party cannot afford to ignore their tallest political leader.

Bommai being Lingayat, there is a possibility that the party will rope in leaders from Vokkaliga and Dailit communities to appoint deputy CMs. Besides, it is yet to be seen how the party accommodates Yediyurappa’s younger son Vijayendra, who is ambitious and has been playing a key role in party affairs. Bommai is among leaders who have had late entry to BJP but took over as CM. Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, who had a long stint with Congress, joined BJP in 2015, just before the assembly polls.

Source: Times of India

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