Hectic political activities are on in the ruling BJP in Karnataka, as party’s national general secretary in-charge Arun Singh began his three-day visit to the state on Wednesday, amid speculation in some quarters over replacing Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa.
Singh asked legislators and leaders not to make any statements in the media that may harm the party, even as he asserted that the state BJP was united and praised Yediyurappa’s leadership.
He later held parleys with the Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues on the functioning of the government, taking its programmes to the masses, hearing grievances of the public and legislators and maintaining proper coordination between the party and the government. A section of the party legislators, who are looking to unseat the Chief Minister, were said to be preparing to present their case before Singh on Thursday, when he will be holding one-on-one meetings with legislators and Ministers.
Giving credence to rumblings within BJP, senior Minister K S Eshwarappa on Wednesday acknowledged that a section within the party is of the view that Yediyurappa should be replaced, even as state BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel ruled out possibility of a leadership change in the state. “All our party workers, ministers and legislators are united, there are no differences of any kind," Singh said in response to a question.
Speaking to reporters here on his arrival in the city, he asked party legislators not to make any media statements and speak to leadership individually if they have any concerns. “Work in your constituency, work for your people and take the party work forward," Singh told legislators, as he asserted that good work was going on under Yediyurappa’s leadership.
To a question on leadership change, he said “I have said what have to say on this, several times, there is no use of asking it again and again." Singh had recently ruled out replacing the Chief Minister, while asserting that Yediyurappa will continue in the top post. As part of his visit, Singh, who later held a meeting with all the Ministers this evening, said, strengthening the party organisation, taking the good governance model of the government and central government programmes to the grassroots level, ensuring that Ministers toured the state effectively, among others, were the only issues discussed at the meeting.
He said ministers have been asked to meet MLAs, party workers and the public without any appointment at their offices on every Thursdays and resolve their issues. Singh said party leaders and legislators will be meeting him on Thursday, during which he will take stock of the developmental activities in their constituencies.
In response to questions on leadership change, allegations against the CM and his family and activities of disgruntled MLAs, Singh merely said they were not part of discussions at today’s meeting. During the next two days, the national general secretary will have one-on-one meetings with legislators and Ministers who want to meet him, and finally on Friday he will take part in the state BJP core committee meeting.
The faction of MLAs who are seeking leadership change are expected to present their case before Singh during one-on-one meetings starting from Thursday, while those in support of Yediyurappa are likely to defend him. Another faction that claims to be “neutral" and to abide by the party decision on the leadership issue are likely to use the opportunity to express their concerns on the functioning of the government and the party.
Meanwhile, Hubli-Dharwad MLA Arvind Bellad, MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal and others, who are seen as a faction opposed to Yediyurappa, have reportedly held discussions regarding their plan of action. Tourism Minister C P Yogeshwar is also said to be in touch with them.
While those in favour of the CM, made a beeline to Yediyurappa’s residence, Ministers, who were earlier with the Congress and JD(S) and defected to the BJP, are also said to have held separate meetings, and are likely to stand in support of the Chief Minister, sources said. Speculation has been rife for some time now that a section of the ruling BJP is trying to push for unseating Yediyurappa.
Singh’s visit comes amid growing disgruntlement among a section of BJP leaders and legislators, with those like Bellad and Yogeshwar making visits to Delhi to meet national leaders and express the feeling of some legislators against Yediyurappa’s style of functioning and request them to rein in the Chief Minister. Leaders like MLA Yatnal and MLC A H Vishwanath, have been embarrassing the government with their statements against the functioning of the government and the Chief Minister, alleging interference from Yediyurappa’s younger son and state BJP vice president B Y Vijayendra in administration.
Also, the governments chief whip V Sunil Kumar has publicly asked BJP leadership to provide a “platform", where legislators can air their grievances. Some BJP legislators are said to be pushing for convening a legislature party meeting, citing certain decisions taken by the government, its functioning, handling of the COVID crisis and alleged instances of corruption, among others.
On the other hand, Yediyurappa’s political secretary M P Renukacharya recently claimed about having a letter signed by more than 65 legislators supporting the Chief Minister. Amid all these activities and speculation, Yediyurappa has said he will continue in the top post as long as the BJP high command has confidence in him, and he had no confusion about it.
He has also asserted that there was no confusion in the state BJP on the issue of leadership and that he will work for the development of the state during the remaining two years of the term. Earlier too there has been intense speculation in some quarters that the BJP high command is mulling leadership change in Karnataka considering the 78-year-old Yediyurappa’s advancing age.
Though the BJP had officially rejected outright such speculation in the past, it refuses to die down, with some within the party like senior MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal giving credence to it with his statements, setting repeated deadlines for Yediyurappa’s exit..