The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka on Thursday virtually turned into a battle zone on the leadership issue, casting a shadow over the stability of chief minister DV Sadananda Gowda as he prepares to present the state budget.
The leadership tussle intensified following Wednesday's high court ruling in favour of BS Yeddyurappa in the mining bribery case which had forced him to quit as chief minister in July last year.
"Yeddyurappa should be re-instated immediately and he should present the budget," the former chief minister's supporters began chanting on Thursday.
They met at Yeddyurappa's residence to finalise strategy to mount pressure on the BJP central leadership as the former chief minister claims that party chief Nitin Gadkari has promised re-instatement if he wins the mining bribery case.
"The high court has given clean chit. Yeddyurappa should be made chief minister as promised by party central leaders," excise minister MP Renukacharya told reporters after the meeting.
Party legislators Belur Gopalakrishna and BP Harish too repeated the demand. Harish demanded an apology from Gowda for his reported comments in Mumbai on Wednesday that Yeddyurappa still faced eight cases of corruption and illegal land deals.
Gowda remained unperturbed. He told reporters here that the party high command had warned of action if members violate its directive to refrain from airing in public views on the leadership issue.
On his Mumbai statement, he said reporters had asked him about these cases and he had only said they are there and law will take its own course.
State BJP chief KS Eshwarappa asserted that Gowda will present the budget, expected in third week of March as a bypoll is being held March 18 for the Udupi-Chikmagalur Lok Sabha seat.
Gowda vacated the seat after becoming chief minister on Aug 4 succeeding Yeddyurappa.
The former chief minister's supporters plan to take a delegation to Delhi on March 12 to demand his re-instatement.
The high court Wednesday quashed the Lokayukta (ombudsman) finding in July last year that Yeddyurappa's family had received a kickback of Rs 30 crore from South West Mining company, Rs.10 crore for a trust run by the family and the rest to purchase an acre of land near Bangalore.
The court also held as "illegal" governor HR Bhardwaj's acceptance of the Lokayukta report and his decision to recommend trial of Yeddyurappa.
The First Information Report (FIR) marking the formal launch of police probe into the issue was also set aside.
The then lokayukta N Santosh Hegde, however, stuck to his findings and told reporters on Wednesday that the reasons for the firm paying Rs 30 crore to Yeddyurappa family should be further investigated.