It’s not often that in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s programme, someone else hogs the limelight. At a public meeting here, it appeared that Modi himself was giving Karnataka BJP strongman B S Yediyurappa a ”pride of place” in his home district.
At the inauguration of the Shivamogga airport, Modi lavishly praised the four-time Chief Minister on his 80th birthday and termed his contributions to public life inspirational.
The Prime Minister felicitated Yediyurappa on his special day and surprised the four-time CM as he made an appeal to the people attending the public meeting to flash their mobile phone lights in a gesture of honour, and there was an enthusiastic response from the large gathering.
As the Lingayat strongman concluded his speech, Modi stood up and applauded him. Modi’s gestures have fuelled speculations that the BJP wants to bring Yediyurappa into the centre-stage of its campaign plank leveraging his mass appeal for the Assembly elections, due by May.
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Union Home Minister Amit Shah at a public meeting last week urged the people to repose faith in Modi and Yediyurappa and vote the BJP back to power in the State.
Yediyurappa was made to resign as chief minister in July 2021 by the BJP central leadership with some citing his advancing age for the move, while some others averred that the party wanted to develop new leadership in the State. ”It is a special day for one more reason. Today is the birthday of popular leader B S Yediyurappa. I pray for his long life. He spent his entire life for the welfare of poor people and farmers,” Modi told the cheering crowd.
The Prime Minister recalled the speech Yediyurappa had delivered in the Karnataka assembly last week and said it was an inspiration to every person in public life. ”Yediyurappa’s speech and his life will inspire us as well as those from the next generation on how to maintain humility in conduct despite attaining heights of success. He spent his prime and 50-60 years of public life for an ideology,” Modi said.
The BJP stalwart in Karnataka was overcome with emotions but was holding back his tears from the moment Modi felicitated him by garlanding him with betel nut beads, a ‘Mysuru Peta’ (Mysuru turban) and a green shawl with a tiller.
However, as the mobile phones beamed the flashlights, Yediyurappa could not contain his emotions, and tears rolled down his cheeks as he was seen wiping his eyes.
”This event has filled me with Joy. The Prime Minister had promised me that the airport will be inaugurated on my birthday,” the former chief minister said.
Yediyurappa, who had already announced his retirement from electoral politics, expressed his gratitude to the people of Shivamogga, who elected him as their public representative to serve them.
Recalling 55 years of his public life, Yediyurappa said: ”Generally, I am not interested in celebrating birthdays but when my 60th birthday was organised in Bengaluru, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee presided over the event and said that he too generally does not attend such birthday events but mine was an exception. I still cherish that fond memory.” Turning to Modi, whom he called ‘Vishwa Manava’ (world leader) of the decade, Yediyurappa added, ”Today yet again, the 80th birthday is also memorable because of you. Your precious time has been allocated to inaugurate historical projects in Shivamogga, which was never witnessed since Independence.” Born in Bookanakere in Mandya district on February 27, 1943 into a Lingayat family, Yediyurappa has been an RSS man from the beginning. He rose from the grassroots level to become a four-time chief minister of Karnataka.
He was instrumental in building the Jan Sangh initially and then the Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka.