The replacement of BS Yediyurappa as the chief minister of Karnataka could well set the template for the BJP to tackle dissidence in the party. The demand for generational change was evident with the four-time CM facing resistance from the younger leaders in the state BJP and yet again failing to last his full term. Yediyurappa had steered the BJP’s course in the state and was instrumental in bringing it to power, managing the affairs in trying times of the pandemic, but had to step aside to boost the party’s prospects ahead of the Assembly elections in 2023.
The change in Karnataka comes after Pushkar Singh Dhami replaced Tirath Singh Rawat in Uttarakhand and Sarbananda Sonowal made way for Himanta Biswa Sarma, who had crossed over from the Congress, in Assam. In Uttar Pradesh, a former bureaucrat, an aide of PM Modi, was made the vice-president of the state BJP ahead of the state polls next year, after initial efforts to install him as the Deputy CM met with resistance. The BJP has experimented even earlier with fresh chief ministerial faces in Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. Whether replacing Yediyurappa, known to be his own man, yields dividends, will depend on how disparate sections within the party are managed, for the BJP lost the Delhi elections even after replacing Sahib Singh Verma with Sushma Swaraj as the CM on poll eve. The change in Karnataka also comes soon after the reshuffle in the Union Cabinet which may give a hint about the way the BJP Central leadership is working, with sitting ministers being replaced with fresh faces. Generational change is evident even in other parties with younger leaders like Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan and Navjot Singh Sidhu in Punjab asking the Congress leadership for more say in party affairs.
While effecting changes within the party and by trying to put its regional satraps on a tight leash, the BJP should guard against over-reach and alienating its own cadre. Allowing its own governments in states to function properly may also serve as a good augury for intra-party democracy as well as the federal spirit.