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Audio clip intensifies Karnataka leadership row

Bengaluru: Karnataka Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Nalin Kumar Kateel on Monday dismissed as fake a purported audio clip in which he is heard hinting at a definite change of guard in the state
PUBLISHED ON JUL 20, 2021 01:55 AM IST

Bengaluru: Karnataka Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Nalin Kumar Kateel on Monday dismissed as fake a purported audio clip in which he is heard hinting at a definite change of guard in the state. While denying any links to the tape, Kateel said he has written to chief minister B S Yediyurappa for an inquiry into the matter.

In the audio clip that went viral on social media on Sunday, Kateel is allegedly heard saying: “Don’t tell anybody. The entire team of Eshwarappa, Jagadish Shettar (ministers in Karnataka government) will be removed. We are making a new team. Three names are there (for chief minister’s post) but they won’t be considered. They will be appointed from Delhi itself.”

HT could not independently verify the authenticity of the audio tape.

Eshwarappa, who was earlier the state BJP president, is currently the rural development and panchayat raj minister, while Shettar, a former chief minister, is the industries minister in the Yediyurappa cabinet.

Reacting to the audio clip, Kateel told reporters in Mangaluru: “I am writing a letter to the chief minister urging for a complete inquiry into it. Let the truth come out through the inquiry. Several such incidents have happened in the past in politics, it is not right, let there be an inquiry… I have nothing to do with it (the tape). Let the truth come out through inquiry.”

“Yediyurappa is the soul of our party, he is our unanimous leader and is senior to all of us. He has built the party to this level after several years of struggle. Also, Eshwarappa and Jagadish Shettar are like two eyes, under the guidance of such senior leaders, the party and the government will function,” he added.

The purported audio clip surfaced two days after the chief minister, who is slated to complete two years in office on July 26, clarified after his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief J P Nadda that there will be no change in leadership in the state. The 78-year-old said that “not a single word” on his removal was discussed during the meetings in the national capital last week.

On Monday, the chief minister held a meeting with the senior members of his cabinet at Taj West End hotels.

On speculation of leadership change in the state, senior Congress leader and former minister M P Patil said the Lingayat community would be upset if the BJP high command removed Yediyurappa from the post.

The chief minister is believed to be the tallest leader of the Lingayat community who firmly stood behind him in 2013.

“Surely, the Lingayats will be displeased with the BJP’s central leaders if they remove the Lingayat leader B S Yediyurappa from the post of the chief minister,” Patil tweeted.

Another Congress leader and president of All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha (the largest group within the Lingayat community) Shamanuru Shivashankarappa, who met the chief minister on Monday, said the latter should continue with the post.

Meanwhile, Karnataka revenue minister R Ashoka also dismissed speculations about a change in the state’s political leadership. “I think you are reading too much into his (Yediyurappa’s) visit to Delhi. From next month onwards, he will be visiting Delhi every month. He could not do it all these months (last six months) due to the pandemic,” he told reporters on Monday.

Speaking about the legislature party meeting called by the chief minister on July 26, he said: “In my personal opinion, this (BJPLP) meeting is to celebrate two years in office and not for any leadership change per se in the state. BJP is in no way facing a leadership crisis either at the state level or at the national level. In both state and Centre, we have strong leadership.”

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