K'taka CM Yediyurappa calls off July 26 legislative party meet
Amid speculations of a leadership change in Karnataka, chief minister BS Yediyurappa is learnt to have cancelled the legislative party meeting scheduled on July 26, on the second year of the anniversary of his government.
The meeting was announced by Yediyurappa on Monday soon after his return from New Delhi, where he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah, besides other senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders. It was speculated that the legislative party meeting was called to elect a new leader to replace Yediyurappa.
However, the decision to cancel the meeting has added to the confusion within the BJP with no clarity on whether Yediyurappa would continue as CM.
Two leaders aware of the developments said that instead of the legislative party meeting, Yediyurappa has now called a dinner meeting of all BJP legislators in the state on Sunday. The leaders added that it would only be a dinner meeting and not a meeting of the legislative party. However, according to a report from news agency PTI, Sunday’s dinner meet has been postponed and a new date is yet to be announced.
There is no clarity on whether the decision to call the legislative party meeting was taken by Yediyurappa or the BJP’s central leadership. Some BJP leaders see the cancellation as Yediyurappa’s message to the party cadre that a leadership change is not imminent. “You have seen the developments in the last few days. People are rallying behind the chief minister,” said a party legislator from Bengaluru.
Even though Yediyurappa had denied handing over his resignation, the talk of him getting replaced as the chief minister has been doing rounds since his visit to New Delhi last weekend. These speculations got further strengthened with an audio clip surfacing, in which BJP state president Nalin Kumar Kateel can be heard allegedly hinting at a change of guard.
However, Yediyurappa on Wednesday tweeted: “I am privileged to be a loyal worker of BJP. It is my utmost honour to serve the party with Highest Standards of Ethics & Behaviour. I urge everyone to act in accordance with party ethics & not indulge in protests/indiscipline that is disrespectful & embarrassing for party.”
Meanwhile, more pontiffs from the religious mutts across Karnataka visited Yediyurappa on Wednesday and extended their support. Among prominent seers who met Yediyurappa was the pontiff of Siddaganga Mutt, Tumkur, which has a large following among the Lingayat community in the state. Siddaganga seer said it was the view of all pontiffs to allow Yediyurappa continue as chief minister. “Our wish is that he remains CM for a full term,” he said.
The chief minister is hosting seers for the second consecutive day, after meeting several of them on Tuesday. Veera Someshwara Shivacharya Swami, one of the pontiffs who met the chief minister on Tuesday, has said any move to replace Yediyurappa will have big consequences for the BJP. “Friction is common in politics, let anyone say anything, we have confidence that BS Yediyurappa will continue as the chief minister and complete the term. If there are any shortcomings in this, it will have big consequences for the party,” he said.
On the political front, former Union minister DV Sadananda Gowda on Wednesday said there was no chance of leadership change in Karnataka as the BJP central leadership was pleased with the developmental works and the handling of Covid-19 pandemic in the state.
Gowda, a BJP MP from Bengaluru North, said he doubted any such move was in the offing. “I don’t think there is any truth in the ongoing discussion about the leadership change because these are the decisions which are taken by our central level leaders keeping in view the political situation in the states,” Gowda, the former chief minister, told reporters in the state capital.
He said he has information that as of now no such decision was on the cards after Yediyurappa explained to the prime minister and the home minister about the prevailing situation.
Gowda said the steps taken by the chief minister during the Covid-19 pandemic and Karnataka’s strides in developmental activities have been appreciated adding that any talks of his removal were only speculations.
On pontiffs of various Lingayat mutts rallying behind Yediyurappa, Gowda said, “Whenever we do some good work, people appreciate it. As a result, people stand in his favour.”
According to a party insider, the uncertainty over Yediyurappa’s future as the chief minister has become a matter of concern for the MLAs who had joined the BJP after resigning from the previous Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition. A legislator, who didn’t wish to be named, said a meeting of these “rebel MLAs” is planned in the coming days.
Yediyurappa inducted 10 turncoat legislators -- who had joined the BJP from the Congress and JD(S) in 2019-- in the state cabinet last week, a move that political analysts said was largely fulfilling his government’s promise of rewarding those who had helped the BJP come to power in the southern state.
Following the collapse of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government led by HD Kumaraswamy in July 2019, the then assembly speaker Ramesh Kumar had disqualified these rebels, prohibiting them from contesting any election until the end of the current assembly’s term in 2023. After the Supreme Court cleared the path for them, 16 of the 17 disqualified MLAs joined the BJP and 13 were given BJP tickets to contest the bypolls from their former seats. As many as 11 won and 10 were given cabinet positions.
One of the turncoat legislators, who did not wish to be named, said, “Initially, when there was a delay in giving us cabinet positions, it was Yediyurappa who stood by us. We don’t know what is going to happen because there is no clear message from the central command on change in leadership, we will wait and watch.”