The intense leadership tussle in the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Karnataka seems headed for resolution with Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa and the Reddy brothers, who are clamouring for his ouster, set to hold a joint press conference in New Delhi on Friday, an official said.
Former union minister and Karnataka government representative in New Delhi V Dhananjaya Kumar told reporters on Thursday night, "Tomorrow (Friday) Yeddyurappa and the Reddy brothers will hold a joint press conference to announce the solution."
In a related development, the BJP central leadership was reported to have offered to sack Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister Shobha Karandlaje, who is said to be close to Yeddyurappa. However, dissidents pressing for his removal remained unmoved.
After day-long talks with Yeddyurappa and one of the Reddy brothers - Tourism Minister G. Janardhana Reddy - party leaders said in New Delhi that efforts would continue Friday to bring the warring sides for face-to-face talks and hopefully a solution would emerge.
Dhananjaya Kumar said the elder Reddy, Revenue Minister G. Karunakara Reddy could not be in New Delhi to join younger brother Janardhana Reddy for talks with the central leadership. Karunakara Reddy would also reach New Delhi for the talks Friday, he said.
The Reddy brothers were unavailable for reaction.
They have not accepted the reported compromise formula which includes besides dropping Shobha Karandlaje, shunting out the chief minister's principal secretary VP Baligar and giving prominence to the Reddy brothers in running the party and government.
The dissidents have been upset with the 44-year-old Karandlaje because of her alleged overbearing attitude and interference in the functioning of other ministries, a charge she has denied.
Karandlaje told IANS in Bangalore late Thursday she was ready to quit if it saves the Yeddyurappa ministry. "But no one has asked me to (quit) nor do I know of the developments in Delhi," she added.
There was speculation in Bangalore that Janardhana Reddy had left New Delhi for Hyderabad where a large group of legislators supporting him have been staying in a star hotel for over a week now.
Belur Gopalkrishna, a legislator, told IANS on phone from Hyderabad that the dissident legislators were contemplating mass resignation if the party high command rejects the demand for Yeddyurappa's removal.
"However, we are waiting to hear from Janardhana Reddy on the outcome of his talks in New Delhi. We will decide our next move after that," Gopalkrishna said.
After talks with party chief Rajnath Singh, senior leaders Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley in New Delhi, Yeddyurappa said he had their full backing to continue as chief minister.
"The talks have encouraged me to work more vigorously for the development of the state," he told reporters.
Rajnath Singh also said that the issue of leadership change in Karnataka was not before the party.
The central leadership's efforts to arrange a meeting between Yeddyurappa and Janardhana Reddy in Delhi Thursday was rebuffed by the dissident leader.
"I am not going to the meet the chief minister," Reddy said within hours of Yeddyurappa expressing hope that he would be able to talk to the rebel leaders to sort out the crisis that has rocked BJP's first government in the south for the past 11 days.
As the drama continued to unfold in New Delhi, ministers supporting Yeddyurappa held a press conference in Bangalore to oppose his removal.
Minor Irrigation Minister Govind Karjola, Public Works Department Minister C.M. Udasi, Higher Education Minister Aravind Limbavali and Cooperation Minister Lakshman Savadi said the BJP had come to power in Karnataka and south India for the first time under Yeddyurappa's leadership.
"It is inappropriate on the part of dissidents to demand his removal, particularly when larger parts of north Karnataka have suffered heavy flood damage and the need of the hour is to focus on rehabilitation," the four ministers said.
The Reddys have earlier rejected the plea of Rajnath Singh and senior leader L.K. Advani to allow Yeddyurappa to continue as chief minister.
The Reddy brothers are billionaire iron ore mine owners and claim the support of over 70 of the 117 party legislators in the 225-member state assembly.
In the May 2008 polls, the BJP won 110 of the 224 elected seats in the 225-member assembly. It formed the government with the help of six Independents, five of whom have been rewarded with ministerial posts. The Reddys are believed to have won over the Independents using their financial clout.
Later, the Reddys also lured more than half a dozen Congress and Janata Dal-Secular legislators to the BJP.