Jaitley fails to quell rebellion in Karnataka BJP

October 30th, 2009 - 6:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bangalore, Oct 30 (IANS) Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley’s efforts to work out a compromise between Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and dissident ministers failed Friday despite several rounds of talks over three days. The two factions will now take the battle to the party central leadership in Delhi.
Rebellious ministers and legislators insisted Friday they would settle for only a change in leadership, brushing aside Jaitley’s repeated assertion of “no change”.

The campaign to remove Yeddyurappa, BJP’s first chief minister in Karnataka and south India, is led by Tourism Minister G. Janardhana Reddy, his elder brother and Revenue Minister G. Karunakara Reddy and their loyalist, Health Minister B. Sriramulu.

The Reddy brothers are rich iron ore miners from Bellary district, about 400 km from here. Their mines are mainly in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, bordering Bellary district.

Jaitley was sent here Wednesday by the BJP central leadership to broker peace between the rich Reddy brothers and Yeddyurappa. The Reddy brothers claim to have the support of a large number of legislators.

Jaitley held a number of meetings with Yeddyurappa and Karunakara Reddy during the last two days but failed to narrow the differences.

On Friday, Karunakara Reddy told reporters that he has been asked to go to Delhi for talks with the central leadership. He and a few others are likely to fly to the national capital Saturday.

Jaitley flew to Mumbai after a final round of meeting with Yeddyurappa and state party chief D.V. Sadananda Gowda in Bangalore.

In Bellary, Janaradhana Reddy told reporters that only a change in leadership would satisfy him and others supporting him. “The head of the family is going in the wrong direction. The BJP in Karnataka needs a new family head if it wants to remain in power,” he asserted.

“We have told our central leaders about the need for a new family head and we are confident we will get one,” Janardhana Reddy said.

On Wednesday his brother Karunakara Reddy had likened Yeddyurappa to “Kamsa”, the wicked materal uncle of Lord Krishna.

The Reddy brothers have been having a running battle with Yeddyurappa over his alleged dictatorial style of functioning, ignoring them in party affairs, not giving them free hand to run their ministries and denying them final say in transfers and postings of officials in their ministries.

They also accuse Yeddyurappa of allowing his favourite ministers, particularly the lone woman minister Shobha Karandlaje, who holds the Panchayati Raj portfolio, to interfere in the functioning of other ministries.

The Reddy brothers are also upset with the appointment of industrialist and Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar to head the panel to supervise relief and rehab work in north Karnataka, which was devastated by the Sep 30-Oct 2 rains and flash floods. They see this as another move by Yeddyurappa to sideline them.

They have been lobbying to replace Yeddyurappa with assembly speaker Jagadish Shettar.

Shettar belongs to the politically powerful Lingayat community, like Yeddyurappa. He hails from Dharwad district in north Karnataka, about 420 km from Bangalore.

The BJP enjoys considerable support from the Lingayat community.

This is the second time after Yeddyurappa became chief minister in May 2008 that the Reddy brothers have taken him on.

Earlier this year Jaitley had been sent for patch-up work and he succeeded.

However, this time neither faction is ready for a truce, so far.

They suspect that Yeddyurappa is attempting to end their clout in the party, which they enjoyed in the early days of his government.

The Reddy brothers hold on the party was because they are believed to have funded the operation to secure a majority for the BJP after the May 2008 assembly polls and make Yeddyurappa the chief minister.

The BJP won 110 of the 224 elected seats in the 225-member assembly, and managed to form the government with the help of six Independents. The Reddy brothers claim they won over the Independents, five of whom were made ministers.

Later, to reduce the dependence on the Independents, the party launched “Operation Lotus” (Lotus is the BJP’s election symbol) to woo legislators from the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular.

More than half a dozen legislators from these parties switched loyalties and won as BJP contestants in by-polls, giving the party majority on its own with 117 members. With the five independent ministers, the party enjoys the support of 122 members in the 225-member assembly.

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