Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa’s unwillingness to quit gracefully despite strong hints from the central BJP leadership to do so forced the party on Sunday to delegate responsibility for getting him out on its president.
Nitin Gadkari has the unenviable task of extracting Yeddyurappa’s resignation without provoking a revolt in the BJP’s Karnataka unit, as Yeddyurappa has been threatening.
To retain the moral authority to keep criticising the Congress over the 2G spectrum scandal, the BJP must get rid of the scam-tainted Yeddyurappa. The UPA government, after all, has dropped telecom minister A Raja. Earlier it took swift action against Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, forcing him to quit following the Adarsh housing society scam in Mumbai.
Yeddyurappa has already begun playing the caste card to prevent being ousted. And since a sizeable number of the BJPs 106 MLAs in Karnataka belong to the same Lingayat community as the chief minister, the BJP high command fears they may all openly rebel if Yeddyurappa is summarily sacked.
Gadkari has been asked to signal to Yeddyurappa that the BJP has no intention slighting him but the overwhelming
view within the party high command — which held a meeting to discuss the matter on Sunday morning — was against his
Yeddyurappa was expected to fly down to Delhi to meet Gadkari on Sunday, but postponed the trip by a day.
Gadakari told HT he wasn’t in a position to say anything definite about Yeddyurappa’s future. "I will hear him out before reaching any conclusion," he said. "The senior leaders have expressed their views in today's meeting and authorised me to take a decision on Karnataka. I cannot say anything now."
In Bangalore, after meeting BJP MLAs, Yeddyurappa struck a defiant posture.
"About 110-120 MLAs are with me, not 10 or 20 or 40 people," he said. "I will go to Delhi. I will meet Jaitley, Sushma and Advani. The only successor to BS Yeddyurappa is BS Yeddyurappa."
Refusing to quit, Yeddyurappa continued to blame his detractors within the party including the Bellary mining barons, Janardhana Reddy and Karunakara Reddy, and his old rival, central leader Ananth Kumar, for his problems.
Significantly the Reddy brothers (who are also state ministers) stayed away from the meeting, as did Jagadish Shettar, who is being projected by Yeddyurappa’s opponents within the party as his successor once he goes.
(Shettar is a Lingayat too, and the high command hopes thereby to keep the Lingayats mollified.)