Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley on Saturday was formally asked by party chief Nitin Gadkari to give “special attention” to Karnataka party affairs.
Gadkari also replaced Karnataka in-charge Shanta Kumar by appointing general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan in his place.
Gadkari’s decision came ahead of his visit to Karnataka on Tuesday when he is due to address the warring ministers of chief minister BS Yeddyurappa’s cabinet and BJP MLAs, delivering a stern warning to “shape up or ship out” to check the slide in the party government’s performance.
Jaitley’s assignment was announced in a press release, indicating that he would be effectively in charge of the affairs of BJP in the state.
A few days ago, Gadkari had roped in Jaitley to handle the latest crisis triggered by land scandals involving family members of chief minister BS Yeddyurappa and other ministers close to him.
After long parleys involving senior BJP leaders including ex-party chief Venkaiah Naidu, Yeddyurappa sought a reprieve, citing the support of powerful Lingayat community for him and the BJP as against the equally influential Vokkalinga support for the Deve Gowda family-led Janata Dal (Secular).
Gadkari’s decision to allow Yeddyurappa to continue in office, particularly in view of the panchayat polls next month, displeased other party leaders including leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, who is seen as the “mentor” for the Reddy brothers, who are ministers in Yeddyurappa’s cabinet but are opposed to his leadership.
With Jaitley, the BJP’s main challenge would be to regain the state government’s credibility and tackle corruption cases involving many leaders, say party officials. The BJP’s first government in the south has been wobbling from one crisis to another since Yeddyurappa rode to victory.
Shanta Kumar, former Himachal Pradesh CM, has also been shifted to Punjab to replace Yashwant Sinha, who had quit his post after Arjun Munda pipped him to the post and became CM of Jharkhand.