Amid speculation of a leadership change in Karnataka, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Thursday said that he would follow whatever the Bharatiya Janata Party decides for him after July 26, NDTV reported.
“There is an event on July 26 on completion of two years of our government here [in Bengaluru],” he told reporters. “After this, I will follow whatever [BJP president] JP Nadda will decide. You all know that two months ago I had said I would resign to make way for someone else. Whether I am in power or not, it is my duty to bring back the BJP to power. I urge party workers and seers to cooperate.”
BJP National General Secretary Arun Singh, however, avoided questions about the possibility of Yediyurappa resigning, reported PTI. “We will sit together someday and discuss,” he told reporters when asked about the speculations. “We will also sit together and have tea.”
On Wednesday, reports said that Yediyurappa had cancelled the meeting of party MLAs scheduled on July 26. However, two party leaders said that the chief minister has invited the MLAs for dinner.
Rifts within the Karnataka unit of the BJP have come to the fore in recent weeks. A section of MLAs have been critical of the chief minister’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis and alleged instances of corruption.
On Wednesday, Yediyurappa appealed to his colleagues in the BJP to “not indulge in protest and indiscipline” amid pressure over exit rumours. “...It is my utmost honour to serve the party with [the] highest standards of ethics and behaviour,” Yediyurappa tweeted.
It was not immediately clear if the message was meant for the dissidents within the BJP calling for his removal, or the chief minister’s supporters who might stage protests if he was asked to quit.
Deputy Chief Minister CN Ashwathnarayan had said he did not know in which context the statement was made, reported ANI. He also rubbished rumours of any discussion on leadership change. “We are not aware of these things,” he said. “We need to hear from him.”
The political crisis
Last week, a purported audio clip on a possible “leadership change” in the state was widely shared on social media. The voice on the clip resembled that of Karnataka BJP chief Nalinkumar Kateel, who denied the claim.
On Monday, state MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal said that the party’s central leadership will soon pick a new chief minister for Karnataka who is “honest, pro-Hindu and capable of bringing the BJP back to power”. Yatnal, one of the strongest voices in the anti-Yediyurappa camp had earlier in July called him “inactive” and asked him to retire respectfully.
Yediyurappa has said that he would step down from his post if the party high command asked him, but he has been preparing to stay on.
Last week, he along with his son met multiple top party leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief JP Nadda. After the meetings, the chief minister dismissed speculations about his resignation.
Reports suggest that the party’s central leadership has asked Yediyurappa to decide whether he wants to resign.
On two successive days on Tuesday and Wednesday, the chief minister met several spiritual leaders from across the state. Reports said that the meetings were meant to be a political message to the BJP leadership and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on the support Yediyurappa enjoys among the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, which makes up for 16% of the state’s population.