The crisis in Karnataka reached a “make or break stage” as Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa bowed to the rebels by removing his principal secretary VP Baligar as part of a compromise formula.
The rebels led by the Reddys, however, continued to play the game of brinkmanship, flaunting the resignations of 53 MLAs who wanted the CM to go. Their act forced the party high command to tell them -- for the first time -- that, beyond a point, their act of defiance was unacceptable if they were unwilling to see reason and accept the compromise formula, party sources said.
The formula envisages Yeddyurappa’s continuation as chief minister but he will drop his key aides as well close ministers, particularly rural development minister Shoba Karandlaje.
He will also cancel the controversial transfers of officials close to the Reddys and reallocate work to ensure the rebel ministers and MLAs too had a say.
A coordination panel would be set up involving the rebels ministers and BJP leaders to ensure Yeddyurappa did not take decisions unilaterally.
Unveiling the formula, the central leaders asked the Reddys to “disband” the rebel MLAs holed up outside Karnataka. Accordingly, Tourism minister G Janardhan Reddy left for Hyderabad to consult the dissidents and plan their next course of action.
Yeddyurappa was also asked by top BJP leaders, who went into huddle at LK Advani’s residence, to stay back for a day more for resolving the situation that has brought the party’s first government in the south to a halt for the last 10 days.
But in Hyderabad too, Janardhan Reddy still stuck to his demand for a "better leadership" in the state, raising questions on the dissidents’ plan in the next 24 hours. "I hope something good will emerge on the leadership issue in the next two to three days."
Senior BJP leaders and Yeddyurappa denied the resignation of MLAs even as he implemented the first aspect of the formula. He posted close aide Baligar as principal secretary, industries department and, brought ISN Prasad in his place. Baligar's removal was a key demand of the rebel Reddy camp.
The CM said he was awaiting the BJP high's command nod for dropping some of the ministers, for whom the rebels have been gunning. He conveyed to the BJP leaders that Karandlaje, considered close to him, would go and he would induct Assembly Speaker Jagdish Shettar into the cabinet. Shetter was projected as alternative CM candidate by the rebels.
But the CM refused to shed portfolios like home and mines that would directly help their business interests and resisted withdrawal of cases against them. Yeddyurappa's contention was that the BJP's stock and his track record are higher than the Reddys and he would not hesistate to face elections again to end the "blackmail" of the Reddys. But central BJP leaders want him to give the compromise formula a chance.
Senior party leader Venkaiah Naidu said, "The problems are not insurmountable." The CM said, “I have met all the important leaders who told me to continue to focus on my regular work.”
Meanwhile, Karnataka governor HR Bhardwaj said it was for the MLAs to solve the current political crisis in the state, but it could not be “an endless process. I am closely watching the situation.”