The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) central leadership on Tuesday dismissed speculation about a possible change of guard in Karnataka and threw its weight behind chief minister BS Yediyurappa.
Dismissing reports of tension brewing in the Karnataka unit of the party after news of 22 MLAs’ meeting at minister Jagdish Shettar’s home on Monday night emerged, a senior functionary in Delhi said, “Karnataka has a stable government under a stable leader.”
He acknowledged though that there are several members in the party’s state unit who are “flexing muscle” in a bid to get ministerial positions in the government, but asserted that it should not be read as signs of split in the party.
“It is natural for people to strive for positions when there are vacancies…but this is no threat to the government nor is this a precursor to a split in the party or change of leadership. Yediyurappa continues to remain a tall, popular leader in the state and has the support of the leadership,” said the functionary quoted above. Vacancy will arise for about 17 MLC seats in June of which seven seats will be elected by MLAs, while six fall under the nominated-member quota.
Trouble began to brew in the southern state after several BJP members complained of being overlooked for a cabinet position. Yediyurappa’s decision to offer berths to those MLAs who contested on a BJP ticket after switching sides from the Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) and Congress did not go down well with the party cadre.
There has also been talk that since the chief minister has already turned 75 and the party brass had earlier made its preference for younger leaders known, a new face could be named for the top slot in the state.
A second functionary however said that the “age factor” is a “non issue”.
“The CM did not turn 75 yesterday; the party high command knew about this and yet he was picked for the top job,” the second functionary said.
Friction between Yediyurappa and the BJP’s organisational secretary BL Santosh who is also from Karnataka had also fuelled speculation about the possibility of a new chief minister. Santosh’s strained equation with the CM is publicly known; his name had also been doing the rounds for the chief minister’s post ahead of the 2018 assembly poll.
“There is no threat to the Yediyurappa government from within (the BJP) or outside. The Opposition is in disarray, both the Congress and the JD(S) are floundering so there is no cause for worry,” said the first functionary.