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Advani-Rajnath cold war behind BJP's Karnataka crisis?

By A Correspondent
Last updated on: November 02, 2009 17:44 IST
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Is the ongoing cold war between Bharatiya Janata Party President Rajnath Singh and senior leader L K Advani responsible for the BJP crisis in Karnataka?

For over a week now Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa has confonted a revolt led by the rich and powerful Reddy brothers, the mining tycoons from Bellary in north Karnataka.

The controversial Reddy brothers came into the limelight by financing the BJP's campaign, which helped the party come to power for the first time in south India.

The Reddy brothers -- Tourism Minister G Janardhana Reddy and Revenue Minister G Karunakara Reddy -- lead a faction within the state BJP who want Yeddyurappa replaced as chief minister.

But some BJP leaders believe that the issue is not about Yeddyurappa's moves to contain the mining interests of the Reddy brothers in Bellary. The Rajnath Singh camp, which is pitted in a bitter battle with the Advani camp, has been accusing former Union minister Ananth Kumar, who is close to Advani, of triggering the crisis.

According to BJP sources, Arun Jaitely, who has been asked to mediate and locate a solution, has not been allowed a fair run. Jaitley is said to be quite fond of Yeddyurappa, but there is pressure within the party in New Delhi not to allow the issue to be settled amicably.

Alluding to the complexities involved, one party insider pointed out that Sushma Swaraj's influence extends to the local politics of Bellary. The BJP's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha unsuccessfully fought a general election against Sonia Gandhi from Bellary in 1999 and is a strong supporter of the Reddy brothers in New Delhi.

Rajnath Singh, who supports Yeddyurappa, is in no mood to accept Jaitley's version of events in Bengaluru. Sources close to him say Singh may take a decision diametrically opposite to the one recommended by Jaitley. He is only waiting for some time to lapse before he does so.

The Rajnath faction claims Ananth Kumar met the Reddy brothers at 12.30 am on October 25. The meeting at Parijat, Janardana Reddy's home, continued till 3 am, so claims this version.

Five hours later, at 8.30 am, Ananth Kumar flew to Hubli by a chartered aircraft. He met Karnataka Speaker Jagdish Shettar at 1.35 pm at his brother Nand Kumar's home. Shettar is the Reddys's reported candidate to replace Yeddyurappa, who is Ananth Kumar's old rival in Karnataka BJP politics.

Ananth Kumar has strongly denied that he is behind the Reddy brothers's revolt and says he only met Shettar at a public event on October 25.

The Reddy brothers revolted against Yeddyurappa the same evening.

Sources say it is ethically improper for the speaker of a legislature to be actively involved in dissident activities. "Shettar's involvement is stopping the BJP from taking action against the dissidents," a party source said. On Monday morning, Yeddyurappa denied that Ananth Kumar was involved in the rebellion.

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A Correspondent in New Delhi