BJP rebels loyal to the party's Karnataka strongman BS Yeddyurappa want to use the July 19 presidential polls as a pressure point to push for the ouster of chief minister Sadananda Gowda.
The rebels have indicated they might "cross vote" for UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee, who is due to arrive in Bangalore on Sunday to interact with Karnataka MPs and MLAs.
The rebels are claiming a strength of 45 and want to strike as they think the BJP might be "most vulnerable" now since it's backing PA Sangma as a non-Congress candidate against Mukherjee — without adequate numbers. Yeddyurappa had supported Mukherjee's candidature when his name was declared as a UPA candidate.
Later, Mukherjee is also understood to have spoken to him.
BJP sources in Karnataka said the rebels were in touch with Congress leaders in Bangalore and might show up to "welcome" Mukherjee.
Yeddyurappa's grouse is that Gowda, who was his chosen successor when he exited last year over corruption cases, is working in "cohorts" with fellow Vokkaliga strongman and JD(S) chief HD Deve Gowda. Yeddyurappa is a lingayat leader.
Central BJP leaders said any decision on a change of chief minister cannot be taken in a hurry.
A new CM would have to lead the party into the 2013 assembly polls. So things will have to wait till the presidential polls, in which the MLAs too vote.
In a bid to stem the rebellion, BJP emissary Dharmendra Pradhan was rushed to Bangalore on Saturday.
He met the nine ministers loyal to Yeddyurappa who had resigned a day earlier. Gowda's MLAs met Pradhan to convey they too would resign if he was replaced.
While Pradhan said a solution was round the corner, state medical education minister SA Ramadass, who is backing Gowda, said the party's parliamentary board would meet in Delhi in next two or three days to discuss the crisis.
(With inputs from Bangalore)