M A I N   N E W S

Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddyurappa finally bows to party pressure and resigns over the Lokayukta indictment
Faraz Ahmed & Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

The big question
Who’ll be the next K’taka CM?

New Delhi/Bangalore, July 28
The BJP Parliamentary Board this morning was finally forced to bite the bullet and dump Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa. The Board met briefly at 9.30 am, following parleys that continued till 2 am, and endorsed the decision to ask Yeddyurappa to step down.

Yeddyurappa had led the BJP to power in Karnataka for the first time in May 2008. The term of the present Assembly ends in May 2013 and the government has 22 more months in the saddle.

A defiant Yeddyurappa, who had flashed the victory sign when he arrived in the national capital late on Wednesday evening, flew back to Bangalore early Thursday and called a meeting of supporters at his Race Course Road residence, that lasted till well after lunch. The thin attendance, just over 30 MLAs, MLCs and others turning up, would have signalled the writing on the wall as the CM was said to have sent in his resignation to the BJP president by evening.

But suspense simmered in Bangalore as there was no formal statement from the CM. Lehar Singh, an MLC , told the media camped outside that the CM would hand over his resignation to the Governor on July 31 after BJP legislators elect a new leader on Friday. The BJP has deputed Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh as central observers to attend the meeting.

With the Parliament’s monsoon session beginning next week, BJP’s stand on corruption and also on the Lokpal Bill would have been weakened considerably if it had continued to back Yeddyurappa, indicted in the report on illegal mining submitted yesterday by the Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde. By dumping the K’taka CM, the principal opposition party obviously wanted to deprive the UPA an opportunity to point fingers at it.

BJP’s strident stand on corruption, black money and giving sweeping powers to the Lokpal would have appeared untenable if Yeddyurappa had stayed on. Also, former BJP president and senior leader LK Advani had persuaded the K’taka Lokayukta to stay on and complete the probe after he had put in his papers complaining of non-cooperation and harassment by the state government. With the Lokayukta’s damning indictment of the CM, the party was left with little choice but to show Yeddyurappa the door.

The CM is said to be lobbying for former state BJP president Sadananda Gowda to replace him. Gowda, a Vokkaliga, had represented Mangalore in the Lok Sabha and was also elected to the Assembly twice before. The CM, who himself belongs to the powerful Lingayat community, is said to share a warm and comfortable personal relationship with Gowda. He appears to be counting on Gowda to keep the seat warm for him till the next election.

While the name of Jagdish Shettar, the rural development minister, is also doing the rounds, Yeddyurappa seems opposed to him. Shettar also belongs to the Lingayat community and could emerge as a threat to him, feels the CM’s camp. Similarly, the camp is opposed to Ananth Kumar, MP, BJP general secretary and known detractor of the CM.

Significantly, Ananth Kumar stayed away from the Parliamentary Board meeting on Thursday. BJP sources explained that as a frontrunner for the CM’s post, it would not have been politically correct for him to attend the meeting.

Karanataka state BJP president KS Eshwarappa has also emerged as a strong contender. This OBC leader is considered close to the RSS, but he is considered a rival by the outgoing CM’s camp and is also facing corruption charges.

Among the dark horses are Higher Education Minister VS Acharya, a Brahmin from Udupi and the Law Minister, Suresh Kumar, who is known as “ Mr Clean’ and is also close to the RSS. Curiously, sources ruled out the CM recommending his close confidante Shobha Karandlaje and explained that she, being an able administrator and close to the RSS, could emerge as a leader in her own right.

Advani’s threat sealed his fate

It was LK Advani’s threat that he would not attend Parliament till Yeddyurappa resigned, which finally sealed the Karnataka CM’s fate.

BJP insiders claimed that Advani announced onWednesday night that he was not ready to face barbs from the Congress in case Yeddyurappa continued in office. Venkaiah Naidu and Rajnath Singh then drove to BJP President Nitin Gadkari’s Delhi home to convey Advani’s ultimatum. Arun Jaitley and Lehar Singh, Yeddyurappa’s special emissary, were already there.

Yeddyurappa drove to Gadkari’s residence late Wednesday night accompanied by 35 MLAs and several lawyers. He was brimming with confidence and as he drove into Gadkari’s house, he belligerently flashed a ‘V’ sign and declared, “Why should I go? My party is with me.” The meeting continued till 3.30 am when, finally, a despondent Yeddyurappa left for the New Delhi airport to fly back to Bangalore.

BJP’s Catch-22

The BJP didn’t have much of a choice — Yeddyurappa’s continuance in office would have weakened the party’s crusade against corruption.





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