BJP's position in Karnataka was further consolidated as BS Yediyurappa-led government managed to sweep the by-polls by winning 12 out of 15 seats where the voting took place. The numbers game now places BJP safely at 117, 5 more than the halfway mark. The party earlier had a slim majority due to the 17 MLAs defecting after the Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018.
As far as Yediyurappa is concerned, there was much at stake for the 76-year-old Lingayat strongman in these bypolls, as any adverse results would have led to question marks over his continuation in the post and even his political future, a senior BJP functionary said.
Aware of this, the veteran politician went out of the way in ensuring that the party faced the bypolls unitedly and work for the victory of disqualified legislators, who were BJP candidates in the by-elections. The four-time Chief Minister was on a campaign blitz and visited each of the 15 constituencies at least twice to ensure their victory.
He publicly announced that they will be made ministers on winning and promised developmental work in their constituencies if voted to power. Amid some reports of rift between him and a section of the partys state leadership under unit president Nalin Kumar Kateel, he ensured that the party rallied together for the bypolls, and even appointed ministers of his cabinet as in-charges to each of the constituencies.
He even admonished some party leaders, when cracks developed within over giving tickets to defectors, sidelining party loyalists, and stood by the disqualified by making remarks publicly that it is because of them his government was able to come to power.
It was no secret he did not have complete say in the cabinet expansion, appointment of three deputy chief ministers and had to run a single member cabinet for over 20 days, a party functionary had recently said, indicating that it is the strong central leadership that calls the shots.
There has been speculation within a section of party circles and the media about Yediyurappa not completing his full term in office citing his advancing age and also the BJP central leadership allegedly not being keen on continuing with him in the top post for long.
The BJP under the current dispensation under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have retired several senior party leaders at the age of 75.
However, an exception was said to have been made in Yediyurappa's case after the BJP won 25 of 28 Lok Sabha seats during the Lok Sabha election and with an intention to have the saffron party in power in Karnataka.
According to some partymen, Yediyurappa may get some respite now for the next three-and-half years -- remainder of his term -- after having ensured the party's victory in the bypolls by winning 12 of the 15 seats, that has provided stability to his four-month-old government.
"With most of the new MLAs elected owing their allegiance to Yediyurappa, it seems to have strengthened his position within the party," a senior BJP leader said. However, the cabinet expansion that Yediyurappa may go in for soon, will not be an easy task, as he will have to strike a balance by accommodating the victorious disqualified legislators in his ministry, as promised by him, and also make place for old guards, who have been upset over being "neglected" in the first round.
Including the Chief Minister, currently there are 18 ministers in the cabinet, whose sanctioned strength is 34.