‘Explosive’ mining report seems to ‘implode’ Karnataka BJP (Karnataka Newsletter)

July 29th, 2011 - 8:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bangalore, July 29 (IANS) From scam-hit Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa to backbencher lawmakers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), everyone Friday proclaimed to be a “disciplined soldier” of the party but quite a few baulked at accepting the high command directive on a change in guard in the wake of the “explosive” Lokayukta report on illegal mining in the state.

Indeed, there was a very real danger that the differences could cause an “implosion” in the BJP.

Groups of ministers, state legislators and parliament members of the party from Karnataka kept repeating to the media through the day that “no one is above the party and all of us will obey the party directives”.

At the same time, they were firm that the party leadership accept their demands — Yeddyurappa to have a decisive say in all matters of the party and the new government. Some were for even his continuing as chief minister and others their candidate as the new leader.

More than a day after BJP parliamentary board “unanimously” gave the marching orders to its first chief minister in south India, Yeddyurappa showed he was in no mood to walk out without getting what he wants.

A firm believer in astrology and rituals, the 68-year-old found the Hindu calendar coming to his aid to hold on to the position to bargain from strength.

The period form July 2 to July 30 is the month of ‘Ashada’ in Hindu calendar. Believers do not undertake any important decisions in these four weeks. Even major purchases are put off. Hence, businessmen organise ‘Ashada Sales’ announcing ‘hefty discounts’ hoping their cash boxes will not remain empty for 28 days.

Late Thursday, over 12 hours after the BJP parliamentary board directive, Yeddyurappa issued a statement: “I am a disciplined soldier of the party… will resign in the forenoon of July 31… work for the party.”

Just 12 hours later, his supporters - some ministers, several legislators and 14 of the 19 MPs — told their party high command that they were against removing Yeddyurappa.

The mining barons and financially powerful Reddy brothers - G. Karunakara, G. Janardhana and G. Somashekara - held a separate meeting with their backers.

The aim was to push for their candidate as chief minister. Their support is said to be for Rural Development Minister Jagadish Shettar, whom they had projected during their earlier rebellion against Yeddyurappa.

Their pressure was also intended to ensure that if their candidate does not become the chief minister, at least as many of their supporters should be in the ministry.

The inclusion of Janardhana, now tourism minister, and Karunakara — revenue minister, and their associate Health Minister B. Sriramulu in the new ministry is extremely doubtful because they are named in Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde’s report on illegal mining.

Another meeting was held of the 11 BJP legislators who had rebelled against Yeddyurappa. The rebels, who were disqualified but won back the membership from the Supreme Court, were not giving any indication on whom they were backing.

One common face in all the meetings was of state unit chief K.S. Eshwarappa, whose name is also making rounds in BJP circles.

Besides Eshwarappa and Shettar, the other candidates being considered are D.V. Sadananda Gowda and H.N. Ananth Kumar — Lok Sabha members from Udupi-Chikmagalur and Bangalore South respectively.

Eshwarappa met Gowda, Shettar and Home Minister R. Ashoka, who also fancies his chances.

In between, Dharmendra Pradhan, general secretary and in-charge of party affairs in the state, has been continuing with his efforts for consensus since Thursday evening. He met a number of ministers, legislators and MPs - some individually and some in groups.

Late Thursday, former BJP president and Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka M. Venkaiah Naidu joined Pradhan in his efforts.

Their hope of sorting out the successor issue ahead of the arrival of senior leaders Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley Friday did not yield the desired results.

By the time Singh and Jaitley landed in Bangalore Friday afternoon, the differences had become more pronounced, forcing the party to put off the legislature party meeting scheduled for the evening.

With no consensus in sight, all efforts were now on “persuading” Yeddyurappa to first resign, participate in the “election or selection” of the new leader and then settle issues concerning his future in the BJP and party’s continued support to him in his many legal battles ahead.

A notable development amidst these meetings was Ananth Kumar’s reluctance to be seen by journalists who had stationed themsevles at various points - the chief minister’s residence, nearby Ashok Hotel, BJP office in south Bangalore, and for some time even at the Bangalore International Airport, 35 kms from the city centre.

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at vs.karnic@ians.in)

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