The crisis in Karnataka reached a "make or break stage" on Friday as Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa bowed to the rebels by removing his principal secretary VP Baligar.
He awaited word from the party high command on a reshuffle of his cabinet under a compromise formula.
Top BJP leaders went into huddle at LK Advani’s residence for what was seen as a final take on the situation that has brought the party’s first government in the south to a halt for the last 10 days.
Playing the game of brinkmanship, dissident leader tourism minister Janardhan Reddy stuck to his demand for a "better leadership" in the state.
He is said to have told BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Venkaiah Naidu that he had received resignations of 53 BJP MLAs from Karnataka who wanted the CM to go.
Yeddyurappa denied their resignation even as he posted close aide Baligar as principal secretary, industries department and, in his place, brought I S N 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 he would drop Rural Development Minister Shobha Karandlaje, considered close to him. Assembly Speaker Jagdish Shettar would be inducted into the cabinet.
But Yeddyruppa wanted to reinstate Karandlaje as the state BJP chief. The Reddys are opposed to that too. The rebels said they also want a few others known to be close to Yeddyruppa to go.
Senior BJP leaders told the Reddy brothers clearly that Yeddyurappa would stay on as chief minister while he would be told to be more flexible to their other demands. The Reddys, who have mining interests, want portfolios like home, mines and environment to go to their supporters.
The CM has refused to shed portfolios that would directly help their business interests and is resisting withdrawal of cases against them. Beyond a point, the BJP high command would be forced to act against the dissident MLAs if they were not willing to see reason and accept the compromise formula, party sources said.
Yeddyurappa's contention is 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.