Rebel ministers withdraw resignations, as instructed by party bosses
No promises have been made, but doors have been left open for negotiations on CM post
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) high command, on Monday 2 July managed to convince its nine rebel ministers loyal to BS Yeddyurappa to withdraw their resignation, it is still mulling over their demand for change of leadership. While the party high command called rebel ministers and CM Sadananda Gowda to Delhi on Monday 2 June, it will take another two to three days for to come to a final solution for the state unit, said sources. According to party sources, while no promises have been made, doors have been left open for negotiations.
“We are quite happy with CM Sadananda Gowda’s performance. There is no urgency for any change of leadership, but we need to also look at the coming elections says a BJP senior national committee member on condition of anonymity,” said a senior party leader. Gowda is a Vokkaliga, one of the dominant communities in Karnataka politics, but BJP 's major vote bank comes from the Lingayat community. The rebel ministers’ chief nominee for the CM's post is another Lingayat leader, Jagadish Shettar.
In a surprise move on Monday, the nine rebel ministers who had quit over change of leadership withdrew their resignations after they got a call from Yeddyurappa. Jagadish Shetthar minister for rural development and, rebel candidate's CM nominee himself addressed the press and informed that the party high-command has assured them a favourable decision in the next couple of days. He said, "The party's central leaders told the Ministers to withdraw their resignations and come to Delhi for talks so that it creates a conducive atmosphere for taking a good decision".
This sudden u-turn on the part of rebel ministers has surprised many. Especially, when they had given an ultimatum of 5 July for the party high command to take a decision over change of leadership in the state. Downplaying the matter now, water resources minister Basaavraj Bommai said, “we didn't issue any deadline to the high command”. Though, sources confirm that till Sunday 1 July, Yeddyurappa was holding meetings with 51 MLAs at Shetthar's residence; and had warned of more resignations if the party failed to take any action on the leadership issue.
BJP’s Karnataka crisis threatens to spiral out of control
CM Sadananda Gowda meets Governor HR Bharadwaj. Will convene legislator party meet on July 16
The political situation in Karnataka is threatening to spiral out of control. Even Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan, who rushed to Bangalore on Saturday 30 June, was unable to mediate between the warring factions. With nine rebel ministers sticking to their demand for a change of leadership in Karnataka, the BJP high command is left with no other option but to takes sides with any one of the factions.
The nine ministers who met Pradhan at the BJP head quarters on Saturday, ruled out any compromise on their demand and reiterated that Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda be replaced. Water resources minister Basavaraj Bommai asserting the groups claim said, “Our demand is to make Panchayat Raj and Rural Development minister Jagadish Shettar chief minister in place of Sadananda Gowda. There is no going back on this demand. We have briefed Pradhan and we are expecting results”. Bommai and Shettar are among the nine ministers who resigned on Friday. The others ministers are CM Udasi (public works), Murugesh Nirani (industries), V Somanna (housing), Umesh Katti (agriculture), Revu Naik Belamagi (libraries and animal husbandry), MP Renukacharya (excise) and Raju Gowda (small scale industries).
Earlier in the day, the rebel ministers accused CM Sadanada Gowda for being under the influence of the Janata Dal (Secular) chief HD Deve Gowda and ignoring BJP own ministers. Sadananda Gowda and Deve Gowda are both from the Vokkaliga community and have long standing political rivalry with Lingayats, who constitute the major vote bank of the BJP. Claiming that Gowda faces ‘trust deficit’, the ministers cited several examples where they were either ignored by the CM. Addressing media at Shetthar’s house, PWD minister CM Udasi said, “Sadanada Gowda is running the administration under the diktat of Janata Dal (Secular) whether it’s the issue of development, constituencies or even minister’s portfolios”.
Claiming that a strained relationship with the chief minister was the primary reason for their resignations, Udasi cited several examples to prove this point. According to Udasi when he was PWD minister, Sadananada Gowda failed to consult him in the Shiradi Ghat project even though he was concerned minister. Other examples cited by Udasi included the recent order of inquiry against excise minister Renukacharya, based on a complaint filed by JD(S) leader of Dakshin Kannada district. “Submission of a report to the Central Empowered Committee of Supreme Court on illegal mining on Yeddyurappa, was done in 24 hours. However, in the report sought by CEC on three former chief ministers (SM Krishna, N Dharam Singh, and HD Kumaraswamy), the court directive itself was hidden”, said Udasi. He also recalled that, in March this year Sadanada Gowda had written to party President Nitin Gadkari complaining against six BJP ministers.
According to party sources, Gadkari and senior leader Arun Jaitley were both amenable in making Jagadish Shettar, a Lingayat, the CM. As elections are due next year, a Lingayat mascot will hold the party in good stead. However, they had to defer their decision as municipal administration minister Balachandra Jharkhiholi claimed support of 15 MLA’s and threatened to resign if there was any change of leadership. Jharkhiholi too has an axe to grind. During the trust vote in the Assembly a year ago, Yeddyurappa had ensured his, and his supporters, exit from the Assembly, and speaker KG Bopaiah disqualified the group. Jharkhiholi who has threatened to submit his resignation to the speaker if Sadananda Gowda is removed said, “You need 113 MLAs to form a government in Karnataka, but a mere 13 can bring it down.”
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda, who met Governor HR Bharadwaj on Saturday, will convene the legislator party meet on July 16 as demanded by the rebel ministers. Meanwhile, state party president KS Eshwarappa has made it clear that resignations of ministers will not be accepted. “There will be no change of leadership also,” said Eshwarappa.
Imran Khan is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.