The ruling BJP in Karnataka on Tuesday faced a fresh crisis after outgoing chief minister DV Sadananda Gowda placed a set of demands in a last minute counter move against rival BS Yeddyurappa, delaying the legislature party meeting.
Gowda's camp insisted on the party president's post for him, deputy chief ministership for KS Eshwarappa and half the ministerial berths for the group, and acceptance of their demands before the meeting, as indications emerged that the change of guard would be not be a smooth affair.
With caste polarisation fully evident, the Gowda group, citing 'social justice,' pushed for key representation to the Vokkaliga community (Sadananda Gowda) and Kurubas Eshwarappa). Chief minister designate Jagadish Shettar is from the Lingayat community, counted by BJP as its key vote-base.
A section of the Vokkaliga community has come out in the open supporting Sadananda Gowda.
Ministers and MLAs loyal to Gowda, including Eshwarappa, Balachandra Jarkiholi and S Suresh Kumar, met at Sadananda Gowda's residence, in an apparent show of strength, and showed no signs of going to the legislature party meeting venue.
The Yeddyurappa faction turned up for the meeting, slated to begin at 11 am to formally elect Shettar as its leader, paving the way for his appointment as chief minister succeeding Sadananda Gowda. But things did not go according to the script.
Transport and home minister R Ashoka is also making vigorous behind-the-scenes moves to become deputy chief minister, party sources said.
Sadananda Gowda loyalist and MLA, HS Shankarlinge Gowda told reporters outside the former's residence that the group is demanding state unit presidentship to Gowda, making Eshwarappa deputy chief minister and 20 ministerial berths.
He said 46 MLAs and eight MLCs attended the meeting at Gowda's residence. "We are ready to resign (if our demands are not met)", Shankarlinge Gowda said.
With the numbers game appearing to be at play again, the Yeddyurappa camp let it be known to the media that it has the support of 70 MLAs, while the Gowda group counted some 50 MLAs.
Central party leaders Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh, who are here to oversee the legislature party meeting and offer guidance on ministry formation, also held discussions with Yeddyurappa, and later with Gowda and Eshwarappa to break the deadlock of sorts.
According to sources, BJP central leadership is not in favour of creating the post of deputy chief minister.
Buckling under pressure from the Yeddyurappa camp, the BJP central leadership on Sunday decided to opt for a change of guard in a bid to end the leadership tussle.
In another development, Vokkalinga Sangha leaders under the leadership of Nanjavadootha swaminji continued their meeting for the second successive day and supported the continuance of Sadananda Gowda.
Vokkaliga leaders staged protest at Nelamangala, on the outskirts of the city, burnt the effigy of Yeddyurappa and shouted anti-BJP slogans.