Basavaraj Bommai may have joined the BJP way back in 2008, but his family’s political history came a full circle only today after his name was announced as the next Karnataka Chief Minister. His father, SR Bommai, occupied the position for a brief period in the 1980s, making a whole lot of difference to India politics.
He succeeds the 78-year-old BS Yediyurappa who announced his resignation on Monday after weeks of speculation.
The BJP veteran is considered the tallest leader alive today of Karnataka’s Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, which constitutes 16 per cent of the state’s 68 million population. His departure was risky business for the BJP since the party has had strong backing from this segment for long.
While it can’t be anyone’s claim that zeroing-in on Mr Bommai as replacement was easy, the choice may be easily justified.
The Karnataka Home Minister, an MLA from central Karnataka’s Haveri district, is also a Lingayat — although the term ‘Basava’ also means ox in Kannada, it strongly resonates the name of Basaveshwara, the 12th century founder of the community.
Before joining the BJP, he was with the Janata Dal United, defecting, along with 22 others JDU functionaries.
Ironic, since his staunchly socialist father, a leader of the Janata Party and later Janata Dal, is best remembered for a landmark battle in the Supreme Court — SR Bommai versus Union of India — that he fought after losing his government in Karnataka following defections. The judgment in that case laid down certain guidelines against the misuse of Article 356 of the constitution by the Central government to impose President’s Rule on states with unfriendly governments.
Nevertheless, Basavaraj Bommai has remained a close confidant of Mr Yediyurappa and has risen in the party ranks to last helm the state’s Home Ministry. A mechanical engineer who reportedly began his career with Tata Sons, he has also held the water resources portfolio in the past.
Married to Ms Chennamma, Mr Bommai has a son and a daughter and is a permanent resident of Dharwad district.
His interests include reading, writing, playing golf, and cricket.