Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa has convened a meeting of his cabinet and party MPs on Friday as he awaits approval from the BJP central leadership to carry out the much-awaited expansion or reshuffle of his Ministry. The cabinet meeting is slated for 10.30 am at the 'Vidhana Soudha', the seat of power in the state, and that of party MPs at his home office 'Krishna' at 4 pm, official sources said on Thursday.
There have been rumours in some quarters in recent times that the BJP is weighing the option of leadership change in Karnataka considering the age of Yediyurappa, who is 77. The state BJP has repeatedly rejected such speculations, but some within the party like senior MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal have openly talked about his replacement.
Deputy Chief Minister C N Ashwath Narayan on Thursday said Yediyurappa will continue in his post. "…we are saying repeatedly that there is no leadership change in Karnataka, Yediyurappa will continue as Chief Minister. There will be no change, he (Yediyurappa) is our leader and he will continue," Narayan told reporters.
The Chief Ministers political secretary M P Renukacharya too said, "our national leaders and state president have said that Yediyurappa will continue as CM". He hit out at the Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Siddaramaiah, who had claimed the BJP will change the Chief Minister citing "information from sources in Delhi".
The meeting with MPs has come in the backdrop of, Chamarajanagar Lok Sabha member V Srinivas Prasad on Wednesday making no secret of his "disenchantment" with the Chief Minister, by stating that Yediyurappa "doesn't need us anymore". Confirming about the MPs meeting on Friday, Gulbarga Lok Sabha member Umesh Jadhav said, "I have received a whatsapp message and a phone call from the CM's office informing about the MPs meeting at 4pm tomorrow.
"Subject has not been specified; it may be about development and issues pertaining to the state that are pending before the Centre," he said. The Chief Minister making a flurry of political appointments to various statutory bodies in the state in the last two days has also fuelled speculation.
Also, Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi is camping in Delhi, and Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi and Revenue Minister R Ashoka travelling to the national capital despite cabinet meeting on Friday has tongue wagging in political circles. Jarkiholi has made it clear he was batting for MLC C P Yogeshwar to be inducted into the Ministry along with a couple of Congress-JD(S) rebels who joined the BJP with him and are now party legislators.
Savadi and Ashoka have said that they are going to Delhi to attend BJP national General Secretary C T Ravi's office inauguration. According to sources, senior national BJP leaders are likely to attend Ravi's office event and the Ministers are expected to meet them regarding developments in the state.
Yediyurappa on Wednesday said that he was expecting communication from the BJP high command in 2-3 days regarding expansion or reshuffle of his cabinet. He had met Nadda in this regard in Delhi last week, but was reportedly asked to wait for clearance from the central leadership to go ahead with the process.
BJP National General Secretary (Organisation) B L Santosh on Monday met the Chief Minister and both leaders reportedly held discussions in this regard. Political activities have intensified within the ruling BJP camp in the state after Yediyurappa on November 10, soon after the party's victory in bypolls to two assembly constituencies, had indicated that cabinet reshuffle is on cards.
The exercise is expected to be a tightrope walk for Yediyurappa, considering that there are too many aspirants. While several of the old guard like Umesh Katti are waiting for a chance to be inducted into the Ministry, Congress-JD(S) rebels like A H Vishwanath, R Shankar and M T B Nagaraj, who helped the BJP to come to power last year and are now party MLCs, are also aspiring for slots.
The cabinet currently has 27 members and seven berths are vacant.