Crisis in BJP's Karnataka unit appeared to worsen today with former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa insisting on a February 27 ultimatum for his reinstatement and party president Nitin Gadkari ruling out replacing incumbent Sadananda Gowda.
Yeddyurappa, who was forced to resign more than six months ago after a Lokayukta report indicted him on illegal mining, made it clear to the party chief that he was in no mood to wait any longer.
Ahead of the BJP's 'Chintan Manthan Baitak', Gadkari had a meeting with Yeddyurappa this morning and separately met Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda to bring about a truce.
Sources said Yeddyurappa was adamant on his stand and wants Gowda to be removed. Gowda, who was Yeddyurappa's choice for the post when he himself had to step down after being indicted in a graft case by the Karnataka Lokayukta, has now fallen out with Yeddyurappa.
The Central leadership does not want a division in the party in Karnataka and is making an earnest attempt to placate Yeddyurappa and reason out with him. When Yeddyurappa was asked to step down from the Chief Minister's post, two Central leaders Arun Jaitley and M Venkaiah Naidu were deputed to settle the issue amicably. The outcome of the present crisis is still unclear as the Central leadership is not keen on bringing in Yeddyurappa.
However, his hold over the Lingayat community- which has been loyal to the BJP- and the fact that he has built the party in Karnataka over the years is weighing in his favour.
Yeddyurappa has also turned his foes like Jagadish Shettar, Rural Development and Panchayat Minister, into friends, adding to the problems of the top brass. At a meeting of legislators convened by him at his Race Course residence yesterday, Yeddyurappa had exhorted his supporters to exert pressure on the party leadership to make him chief minister again.
Yeddyurappa spoke about his key contribution in building the party from the grass-roots level in the state, and questioned his removal, pointing to some chief ministers in other states continuing in office despite court cases against them. Yeddyurappa turns 70 on February 27 and has extended invitation to all his supporting legislators to attend a lunch hosted by him on that day.
Asserting that there is no leadership change, the chief minister had said yesterday, "I will present the budget. There is no doubt in it. I am the consensus candidate and there is no move to replace me with other party legislator as the chief minister ... My position as chief minister is safe," Gowda had said.
The meeting called by Yeddyurappa yesterday to showcase his strength was attended by more than 65 MLAs in the 122-member BJP legislature party besides MLCs and MPs.