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Give Yeddyurappa a chance: BJP top brass

November 02, 2009 14:14 IST
Vicky Nanjappa provides a fascinating glimpse of the furious political games being played as BJP leaders try to resolve the party's growing crisis in Karnataka.

The Bharatiya Janata Party's central leadership is adamant that B S Yeddyurappa will continue as Karnataka's chief minister.

Sources in the chief minister's and rebel camps told that the rebel faction -- consisting of Karnataka Speaker Jagadish Shettar, Tourism Minister G Janardhana Reddy and Revenue Minister G Karunakara Reddy, who are spearheading the rebellion within the state BJP to oust Yeddyurappa -- were given a series of options and have been given time to consider the same.

All the rebels's meetings with the party's central leaders were led by Shettar, an aspirant for the chief minister's post.

During Shettar's meetings with senior BJP leaders L K Advani, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, it was made clear to him that there would be no change in the state leadership.

Sources say Advani asked Shettar how many BJP members of the Karnataka assembly supported his bid for leadership. Shettar said he enjoyed the confidence of 15 MLAs. To this, Advani asked if those numbers justified his demand to be made chief minister. The BJP has 117 MLAs in the state legislature.

'How can you ask for the post of CM with so few MLAs?' Advani asked.

The BJP veteran told Shettar the party had no problem in making him a cabinet minister immediately. Shettar, however, continued to press for the chief minister's post and said he too enjoyed as much support as Yeddyurappa did in north Karnataka.

'Today the people of north Karnataka have no faith in the CM's leadership,' sources said Shettar told Advani. 'Moreover, I too belong to the Lingayat community which is in the majority in north Karnataka.'

Advani was adamant that the most the party would offer him was the post of cabinet minister. When Karnataka BJP chief Sadanand Gowda was asked about this, he said there had been problems in the past about making Shettar a minister. But now, Gowda said, the post could be given to Shettar immediately.

Shettar also complained about the chief minister's behaviour. Sources said he described Yeddyurappa as 'arrogant' and 'egotistic', and said it was becoming impossible for BJP MLAs to deal with the CM.

Advani told him that the party's central leadership would suggest that Yeddyurappa change his style of functioning. However this is no reason to demand a leadership change, Advani added.

He noted that the party had come to power in Karnataka 'due to the efforts of all you people. You both (the chief minister and speaker) have been with the party for the past 35 years. It is not correct that you yield to the pressure of some people (the Reddy brothers) who have recently joined the party.'

Advani asked Shettar why this demand to change Yeddyurappa had suddenly come up. 'There was no problem all these months. Do you realise the ugly message it will send out to the people? Give him some time to prove himself and you, as a well-wisher of the party, ought to do this. If such occurrences keep taking place, then this party will not last. Everyone makes mistakes, but we need to give everyone a chance. Give Yeddyurappa some time and we will watch how he works. In case we find that there is something wrong, then let us discuss the change in leadership,' Advani added.

All the senior BJP leaders made it clear that there would be no change in leadership till the end of March at least, which is an indicator that Yeddyurappa has to change his style of functioning by then.

Shettar and his supporters also raised other demands, including the ouster of Rural Development Minister Shobha Karandalage and Irrigation Minister Basavaraj Bommai.

They accused Karandalage of being a 'super-CM.' Bommai, they said, had recently joined the BJP, but the kind of power he enjoyed because of his proximity to the chief minister was not acceptable to senior party leaders in the state.

'The CM is sidelining people like me who have worked for the party and giving undue importance to new entrants,' Shettar is said to have alleged.

The rebels also complained against the chief minister's principal secretary, V P Baligar, who the high command has reportedly agreed to move from his post.

Advani and the other senior leaders also placed before the rebels a list of demands made by the Yeddyurappa faction. The chief minister's supporters have demanded that ministers like Sports Minister Gulihatti Shekhar, Fisheries and Science and Technology Minister Anand Asnotikar and Shivangowda Naik be dropped.

Shettar said he needed time to discuss this issue with his supporters. The Reddy brothers will not agree to the chief minister's demand since they would risk losing a support base.

Sources in the BJP say the final solution could look something like this:

  • No change in the state leadership;
  • A cabinet minister's berth for Shettar;
  • No dropping of ministers, but the wings of ministers close to Yeddyurappa will be trimmed to a large extent;
  • No change of portfolios for ministers close to the rebel faction;
  • Shunting out V P Baligar from his post;
  • No toll on mining lorries as demanded by the Reddy brothers who are also the mining tycoons of Bellary.
  • A free hand to the Reddy brothers to go ahead with the rehabilitation of flood victims in north Karnataka on their own.
  • Meanwhile, Yeddyurappa has sprung to the defence of his old rival, senior BJP leader Ananth Kumar, against whom allegations were made of engineering the rebellion within the Karnataka BJP.

    The chief minister, who is in Bagalkot in North Karnataka, said on Monday that unnecessary rumours are being spread against Ananth Kumar.

    Yeddyurappa also apologised to the people of Karnataka and said it was unfair of his party to be fighting and creating a crisis at a time when the state government should be focusing on relief for the millions of Kannadigas affected by last month's floods.

    Meanwhile, rebel leader B Janardhana Reddy flew to New Delhi by a special aircraft on Monday to hold talks with the party's central leadership. A team of Yeddyurappa loyalists is holding the fort in Delhi while other chief ministerial backers try to resolve the issue in Bengaluru.

    Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru