In picking Lingayat leader and Basavaraj Bommai as the next Karnataka chief minister, the Bharatiya Janata Party has done a critical balancing act. Quelling disquiet against the former chief minister, while also sending out a message that open rebellion against party leaders is unlikely to result in the fulfilment of personal ambition, the BJP has also managed to grant BS Yediyurappa a graceful exit.
Meanwhile, Bommai, considered a Yediyurappa loyalist and a senior administrator in the now-dissolved council of ministers, will be able to pick up where BSY left off without wanting to upset the apple cart. He will also be able to retain the loyalties of the politically influential Lingayat community that Yediyurappa enjoyed in his tenure, and his exit.
Here is a brief look at his career so far:
The 'rule' of exception
A noteworthy fact about the BJP's choice this time is that he is the rare exception to the current pedigree of chief ministers in party-ruled states: He seems to lack the usual Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh seal of approval.
Bommai is not from the RSS stables and had only joined the BJP in 2008. He was, in fact, earlier associated with the Janata Dal (United). He is seen as a moderate face not known to take a hardline Hindutva stance and an amenable man across party lines. This makes him an exception among BJP chief ministers in the state, while also negating the assumption that 'outsiders' cannot aspire for big posts in the party..
His caste, educational qualification, administrative capacities and proximity to Yediyurappa and central leaders of the BJP are said to be the reasons for his choice for the post.
- Bommai's father SR Bommai was a Janata Parivar stalwart and had served as the 11th Chief Minister of Karnataka.
- Born on 28 January, 1960 in Hubballi, Basavaraj Bommai is a graduate of Mechanical Engineering. He worked in Tata Motors, Pune for three years and then became an industrial entrepreneur.
- Married to Chennamma, he has a son and a daughter.
- Widely appreciated for his knowledge regarding irrigation projects in the state, Bommai was like Yediyurappa's shadow in the just-dissolved BJP government, as he used to follow the 78-year-old Chief Minister at meetings, events and press briefings and assisted him.
- He enjoys reading, writing, golf and cricket and has served as Chairman of the Karnataka State Cricket Association, Dharwad, and Karnataka Volleyball Association, Dharwad District.
- He is also the founder of Arunodaya Co-operative Society, a member of Jayanagar Housing Society and German Chamber of Commerce.
- Bommai is from the dominant Veerashaiva-Lingayat community to which Yediyurappa also belongs. The community accounts for 16-17 percent of the state's population and has a say in 100 of the state’s 224 assembly seats.
- He started his political career with the Janata Dal, and was a member of the Karnataka Legislative Council, twice (in 1997 and 2003) from Dharwad local authorities constituency.
- He had also served as Political Secretary to Chief Minister JH Patel and as Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the council.
- Bommai quit the Janata Dal (United) and joined the BJP in February 2008 and in the Assembly elections held later that year, was elected as MLA from Shiggaon constituency in Haveri district. He then went on to retain the seat in the 2013 and 2018 Assembly polls.
- Bommai had served as Minister for Water Resources and Cooperation in the previous BJP government.
- The 61 year-old leader was the Minister for Home Affairs, Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Legislature in Yediyurappa's council of ministers and was also the minister-in-charge of Haveri and Udupi Districts.
With inputs from PTI