Bangalore / New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has asked rival factions in Karnataka to resolve their dispute by Saturday, said senior leaders who spoke on condition of anonymity. The unit has been in the throes of a crisis in the past week following a rebellion by some of its legislators against the state leadership.
Tough times: Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa. His close aide, principal secretary V.P. Baligar, was shunted out on Friday. Hemant Mishra / Mint
Chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, meanwhile, announced some changes that were part of the demands made by his rivals. The chief minister’s principal secretary V.P. Baligar, a bureaucrat seen as close to Yeddyurappa, was on Friday shunted out.
The Karnataka government said Baligar would take charge of the state’s industries department and I.S.N. Prasad, another senior bureaucrat, would be the new secretary to the chief minister.
Late evening, at a meeting convened at BJP national leader L.K. Advani’s house in New Delhi, Yeddyurappa was asked to stay back in the capital so a compromise could be reached.
“I am not going back to Bangalore,” Yeddyurappa said. “Our central leadership has advised me to stay back. The crisis would be sorted out in another 24 hours.”
BJP leaders Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj were at the meeting.
The priority of the “RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and the BJP at the moment is to save the government headed by Yeddyurappa rather than save the party,” said Jyotirmaya Sharma, professor, political science, Hyderabad University. “The RSS’ preference for Yeddyurappa is obvious, given his Sangh background.”
Rebel BJP leader in the state and Karnataka tourism minister G. Janardhana Reddy, however, flew from New Delhi to Hyderabad, where his supporters are camping, without meeting the chief minister.
Mounting pressure on the BJP, Reddy said he had with him the resignation letters of 53 legislators and these would be submitted to the party’s central command if they failed to give “better leadership.”
The president of the Karnataka unit of the BJP, Sadananda Gowda, said Reddy had gone back to Hyderabad to convince his supporters on a compromise formula. He did not disclose more details.
A legislator from the Reddy camp, who did not want to be identified, said Shobha Karandlaje, the state’s rural development minister, is also likely to be dropped and the speaker of the Karnataka assembly, Jagadish Shettar, would be inducted into the ministry.
The portfolios in the state would also be reshuffled as part of the compromise formula, this legislator said, adding that a panel constituting members of both the factions was likely to be set up to review key administrative decisions.
The rebels have been demanding the removal of Karandlaje, considered close to Yeddyurappa, and making Shettar the new chief minister. “Just dropping Shobha and removing Baligar is not enough. Yeddyurappa has lost (the) confidence of the majority of party MLAs (and) has to go. We are firm on this demand,” the rebel legislator said.
Former chief minister and Janata Dal (S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy said that if the BJP was unable to resolve its internal crisis, it should dissolve the assembly and go to the people. “It is shameful that even as people in north Karnataka are struggling to rebuild their lives after the unprecedented floods, the state government is politicking instead of assisting those in distress.”
Another minister, who claims to be neutral to both factions, said: “Irrespective of which faction wins or loses, it is the party which has lost.”