Former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa on Sunday intensified the heat on the central leadership of the BJP by setting a July-5 deadline for removing chief minister DV Sadananda Gowda and replacing him with his nominee Jagadish Shettar.
In a show of strength, BSY's loyalist ministers, MLAs and MPs met at Shettar's residence in Bangalore and released a list of 52 MLAs supporting the former chief minister, who was asked to step down last July in the wake of corruption and nepotism charges.
Eight Lok Sabha members from Karnataka and 15 MLCs also attended the meeting. They included GS Basavaraj, GM Siddeshwar and BY Raghavendra (Yeddyurappa's son) and RS member Prabhakar Kore.
BSY's latest move has made central BJP leaders anxious because the party has a total strength of 120 in the 225-member Karnataka assembly.
BSY claims he has the backing of around 70 MLAs ahead of the July 19 Presidential poll. The rebels want to use the threat of cross-voting in support of UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee to press for Gowda's ouster.
The larger worry for the BJP is the slide in its popularity and image when the next assembly polls are held around June 2013.
Central BJP leaders, who declined to comment on the development, read BSY's muscle-flexing as a bid to also ensure an early state cabinet expansion in which he wants more berths for his men.
They do not rule out a compromise formula in which Shettar is made deputy CM if he cannot be made CM. Their first task, however, is to persuade BSY to give up the deadline. BJP sources reiterated that a change of guard in the near future was unlikely.