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Who Is Basavaraj Bommai? Karnataka’s New CM And Yediyurappa’s Confidant

On July 30, 2011, as BS Yediyurappa was mired in an illegal mining related controversy, his resignation seemed imminent. As the media waited for word from BJP, two of Yediyurappa’s confidantes and ministers in his cabinet came out to read a statement on his behalf- Murugesh Nirani and Basavaraj Bommai. That these two leaders are in Yediyurappa’s inner circle had become evident then. A decade later, Karnataka saw a beaming Yediyurappa proposing Bommai’s name as the next Chief Minister of the state. According to those close to him, Yediyurappa is not happy to let go of the CM’s chair, but in the present circumstances, Bommai is his safest choice.

Like Yediyurappa (Banajiga sub-sect) , Bommai (Sadar sub-sect), son of former Chief Minister SR Bommai also hails from the Lingayat community. The community comprises about 17% of the state’s population and Bommai with his political experience was one of the favorites who were considered for being the new guard. It was expected that the BJP will opt for a member from the community, considering it is the party’s prime vote bank. 

Bommai was elected as an MLA from Dharwad constituency in a Janata Dal ticket following his father’s footsteps in 1998 and 2004. In 2008, he decided to join the BJP. It was with much fanfare that BJP leaders welcomed Bommai into the party and many remarked that Bommai would further strengthen the party in north Karnataka. He contested the 2008 assembly elections as a BJP candidate in Shiggaon constituency in Haveri district and won. He was subsequently given the Ministry of Water Resources portfolio.  

An engineer by education, Basavaraj Bommai started his career with Telco Company in Pune. He was appointed General Secretary of the Janata Dal in 1995. In 1996, he served as the Political Secretary of the then CM JH Patel. 

But unlike the other frontrunners, he is not a RSS man and is indeed a surprise choice. 

A source said, “While Bommai can be an able administrator and has good relationships with a plethora of leaders in both the lobbies, he is seen as a person too close to Yediyurappa and that was a disadvantage.” The source added, “There was a rumour floating around that BSY had asked the High Command not to choose a Lingayat as his successor, now it is established that it was a baseless rumour only." 

Another factor that was pitted against Bommai was the lack of financial prowess compared to leaders like Murugesh Nirani, another favourite for the CM’s chair.


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