For a confident B S Yeddyurappa and BJP, the loss of both assembly seats in Nanjangud and Gundlupet came as a shocker. While the bypoll, as both parties indicated, were not a referendum for the 2018 assembly polls, the results have had their impact on both parties. For the BJP, the setback is likely to directly haunt state president B S Yeddyurappa and his chief ministerial aspirations.
Sources from the BJP suggest that after the massive loss of face in the bypolls, the party is reconsidering its decision to project B S Yeddyurappa as the Chief Minister candidate. B S Yeddyurappa, sources said, may find a contender in B L Santosh. The deputy general secretary (organisation), Santosh is close to both Amit Shah and Narendra Modi but being a pracharak-turned-politician, Santosh enjoys the solid backing of the RSS.
Santosh proved that he holds considerable sway on the BJP's central leadership during the B S Yeddyurappa- K S Eshwarappa tug-of-war earlier this year. The generally behind the scenes man, B L Santosh is a go getter. A trusted aide of Amit Shah to get a job done. Be it leading a campaign, resolving infighting or overseeing a unit's function. His ability to handle conflict has made him the senior leadership's favourite. B L Santosh may very well be a threat to B S Yeddyurappa as the BJP's chief minister candidate.
There is, however, a setback to the BJP if B S Yeddyurappa is not projected as the Chief Minister face. While B L Santosh may be a master at management, mass appeal is something that B S Yeddyurappa boasts of. While the loss in bypoll is a morale dipper, B S Yeddyurappa continues to hold massive sway in BJP's traditional bastions. If BJP loses Yeddyurappa, it loses a considerable share of its Lingayat vote bank. While the Lingayat's in Gundlupet and Nanjangud refused to back Yeddyurappa, the scenario is quite the opposite in other regions.
B L Santosh commands respect but B S Yeddyurappa commands votes. In electoral politics, votes trump everything. With another year for the assembly polls in Karnataka and Congress getting a boost with the victories in the bypoll, the BJP does not want to risk a rebellion. B S Yeddyurappa's age was raised as a matter of concern but the same was brushed aside by the leader. Despite the challenges that come with rejecting B S Yeddyurappa, the party is rethinking and reconsidering its decision in a way that would add strength and not split the party.