As he marched to Raj Bhawan in Bangalore to submit his resignation to Karnataka governor HR Bharadwaj on Sunday evening, outgoing chief minister BS Yeddyurappa was accompanied by an army of legislators swearing allegiance to him.
"I am satisfied with the work I have done. I will continue to strive to strengthen the party," he told reporters.
He was bowing out, but with a strong message to the party leadership at the Centre: Yeddyurappa remains the tallest BJP leader in the state.
"The central leadership wanted him to step down first, and then wait for his successor to be announced, but Yeddyurappa wanted that his successor be announced first," a source close to Karnataka development said.
"When the central leadership insisted that he step down, he marched with ministers, MLAs and MPs to resign, to make it clear that he was in command and the party should not decide a successor against his wishes."The Lingayat strongman had bowed before the party's collective will, but not without telling them yet again that he enjoyed wide support among BJP MLAs and retained his strength. The resignation had come as dramatically as the two days preceding it.
Yeddyurappa has been pushing for MP Sadanand Gowda as his replacement, and has been dead against names like BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar, state party chief KS Eshwarappa and fellow Lingayat leader Jagadish Shettar.
Days back, Yeddyurappa had agreed to step down after the party brass had made it clear to him in Delhi hours after the Lokayukta report indicting him was released on Wednesday, setting aside his plea that the lokayukta report was "biased" and "procedurally flawed".
He had conveyed this to Gadkari the very next day, but sought time till Sunday.
This was agreed to, but party observers Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh were greeted by about 75 MLAs swearing loyalty to Yeddyurappa when they went to Bangalore on Friday to choose his replacement.
This mini-rebellion was more a carefully crafted message: he must have a say in choosing his successor, so that he can control the state even when he is not chief minister.