Bengaluru (PTI): BJP veteran B S Yediyurappa is out of power and electoral politics for sure, but his clout in the party's affairs in Karnataka remains undiminished as its central leadership seems to be once again falling back on this seasoned oarsman to deliver in the coming Lok Sabha polls.

Whether it is selection of candidates or quelling dissidence in multiple constituencies, the party's 81-year-old central election committee member is seen to be "man-of-the-season."

Stakes are indeed high for the BJP Parliamentary Board member as he will have to ensure that his son B Y Vijayendra consolidates his position as the party's state President and silence critics who have questioned his selection for the post ignoring the claims of experienced hands.

The octogenarian, who has already announced his retirement from electoral politics, is sought to be put on the pedestal by the BJP's central leaders, making him a key poll mascot in the state, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The reasons are not far to seek as to why Yediyurappa has been pushed to the top of the party's election plank.

The four-time Chief Minister, who built the party from grassroots level, has a mass appeal and connect particularly among the politically influential Lingayat community that no other party leader in the State commands.

It's now quite evident from the BJP's scheme of things that the party is keen on leveraging the "Yediyurappa factor" and putting him up as the "poster boy" to reap rich electoral dividends.

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No less than the Prime Minister himself had a lavish praise for Yediyurappa in his home district of Shivamogga during his public meeting earlier this month.

"Shivamogga is a special land - that when no one knew about us during the Jana Sangh days, when we had no members even at the municipality level -- at such a time Yediyurappa ji spent his prime here. This is his 'Tapobhoomi'," Modi had said.

According to some political observers and BJP insiders, the party sought to sideline Yediyurappa in the Assembly elections in May last year.

The BJP was ousted from power by the Congress and able to win only 66 seats in the 224-member Assembly.

Corruption issue, consolidation of minority votes behind the Congress and a section of Lingayats drifting away from the BJP were seen to be among the key factors for its defeat.

Vijayendra was appointed as State unit President in November last year, with the party once again reposing faith in Yediyurappa.

Yediyurappa's imprint is clearly visible in selection of candidates for Lok Sabha polls, as he got tickets to his elder son B Y Raghavendra in Shimoga, and several loyalists including Shobha Karandlaje in Bangalore North, Gayatri Siddeshwara, wife of MP G M Siddeshwara, in Davangere, former CM Basavaraj Bommai in Haveri and Govind M Karjol in Chitradurga.

It is also said that he played a key role in picking scion of the erstwhile Mysuru royal family Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar for the Mysore seat, replacing MP Prathap Simha.

However, Yediyurappa also had to face backlash from a number of aspirants, who did not get the ticket.

Several senior leaders like J C Madhuswamy from Tumakuru, former MLAs M P Renukacharya and S A Ravindranatha from Chitradurga, MP Karadi Sanganna from Koppal, and some party leaders from Belagavi had openly expressed their angst against him for not backing their candidature.

The party also faced dissidence in constituencies like Bidar and Chitradurga among others. Veteran party leader K S Eshwarappa has revolted and announced that he will contest as an independent from Shivamogga, where Raghavendra is the candidate. He has blamed Yediyurappa for his son K E Kantesh not getting a ticket from neighbouring Haveri.

Yediyurappa has reached out to disgruntled leaders, personally meeting some of them.

According to a party functionary, "the Yediyurappa factor has been largely beneficial to the BJP, but it has also adversely affected at times. It is like a double edged sword. His clout and appeal within the party and among voters, especially the Lingayats, cannot be denied.

At the same time, this has also led to conflicts and rifts within the party, amid accusations of nepotism and favoritism."

"Yediyurappa factor obviously means, strong leadership and mass appeal, but too much dependence on it, with focus on Lingayat votes has somewhat limited the party from broadening its social base among other communities like Vokkaligas," he said. "The party has seen its negative effects electorally, as it has never been able to get majority on its own in the state."

Pointing out that Yediyurappa is undisputedly the "chief architect" of BJP in Karnataka, with support of other leaders like Eshwarappa and late H N Ananth Kumar, another party leader said: "controversies and corruption allegations apart, under his leadership, the party has performed well in successive elections and whenever he is sidelined, the performance has been weak. This may be in the mind of the central leadership to fall back on him time and again."

During the 2023 Assembly polls too, BJP initially tried its best to secure Lingayat support without Yediyurappa, but were not very confident about it, and at the later stages it had to rope in the veteran leader, a party leader noted, adding that efforts to cultivate support from some other communities also did bear desired results.

Yediyurappa resigned as Chief Minister on July 26, 2021. Age was cited as a primary factor for his exit from the top job, with an unwritten rule in the BJP of keeping out those above 75 years from elected offices. Also, the BJP central leadership wanted to make way for new leadership ahead of the Assembly polls.

Ahead of assembly polls, Yediyurappa announced retirement from electoral politics.

The BJP had swept the 2019 general elections to Lok Sabha, bagging 25 of the total 28 seats in the state, while an independent backed by the party had also emerged victorious.

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Male (PTI): The second group of Indian military personnel operating a helicopter has left the Maldives on April 9 under a bilateral agreement with India, President Mohamed Muizzu has announced. Muizzu announced this on Friday while speaking during a campaign event for ruling party candidates ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for later this month.

"The first team has already gone. Now, on April 9, the soldiers on the second platform have also been withdrawn," Muizzu was quoted as saying by the local media. The agreement between Maldives and India is to replace the Indian military personnel stationed in Maldives to oversee the operations of the military aircraft the country has gifted with trained civilians also from India.

Muizzu, a pro-China leader, added that the Indian soldiers on the last platform would also leave the Maldives before May 10 and that would mark the fulfillment of his pledge to remove Indian soldiers from the island nation. "There is only one platform left. As the two countries have already signed, they [the remaining Indian military personnel] will also be recalled ahead of May 10. They will leave," Muizzu was quoted as saying by news portal. "So that pledge is fulfilled, isn't it? All foreign military here will leave before May 10. So any pledge I make, I will work to fulfill to the greatest extent", he said.

He did not provide any details and did not clarify whether the soldiers had been replaced by Indian civilians. Neither the Maldives Defense Ministry nor India have commented on the latest withdrawal of Indian military personnel from this country.

According to the Maldives government, 88 Indian soldiers were stationed in the Maldives to operate helicopters in Addu and Laamu Kadhdhoo and a Dornier aircraft in Hanimaadhoo. The figure also includes doctors at the Senahiya military hospital. The first group of Indian soldiers left the Maldives on March 11. The Defence Ministry said 26 soldiers based in Addu were replaced by 26 Indian civilians. India also replaced the old helicopter in Addu with a new one.

Relations between Maldives and India have deteriorated since Muizzu came to power in November last year while closer ties are maintained with China. He also travelled to China in January and met top Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping. China and the Maldives recently signed a defence cooperation agreement and several other infrastructure development projects.

The Maldives is India’s key maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and occupies a special place in its initiatives like ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’ of the Narendra Modi government.