Several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in Karnataka appear to be displeased with the party’s announcement that the 2023 Assembly elections would be contested under the leadership of Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, reported The Print.
The party leaders have said that the state polls should instead be contested under a “collective leadership”, according to PTI. This reportedly indicates that the BJP’s decision to field Bommai as the chief ministerial face has not been received well by other leaders of the party.
Last week, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had announced that the BJP would come to power again in the state in 2023 under Bommai’s leadership. He made the remarks during a visit to Karnataka’s Davangere city.
In July, Bommai assumed the chief minister’s office after BS Yediyurappa stepped down from the post. Yediyurappa’s resignation came after BJP MLAs in Karnataka repeatedly criticised him about a host of matters, including project approvals and the alleged interference of his son BS Vijayendra in the administration.
After Shah’s announcement, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister KS Eshwarappa and Former Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar expressed displeasure with the BJP’s choice for the state election.
“I am not contradicting Shah’s announcement but from my assessment of the situation in Karnataka, we need a collective leadership,” Eshwarappa said, according to The Print. “Leaders like BS Yediyurappa and I have built the party over four decades.”
Eshwarappa said that the state should be administered by more than one person. “But this is only my opinion,” he added. “I will suggest the same to the party but will abide by what the party decides.”
Shettar had reportedly declined a position in Bommai’s Cabinet. He had said it would “hurt his self-respect to be a minister in his junior’s cabinet”, The Print reported
But Shettar, too, said that he will abide by his party’s decision, adding: “But the elections are still far away. We have to see what happens when the election comes.”
Meanwhile, BJP’s Karnataka unit President Nalin Kumar Kateel on Monday reaffirmed that the party’s choice of chief minister was Bommai, PTI reported.
“The chief minister of the state is the leader of the government and at the time of election, certainly it will be his leadership... [Union Home Minister] Amit Shah has clarified it,” Kateel said. “Seniors will give the guidance, BS Yediyurappa [former chief minister] will be the margadarshak [guiding force] during the next election.”
Kateel also claimed that there were no differences in the party on the matter of leadership. He said Bommai became chief minister on the directions of the BJP high command, and that the decision was “accepted by all”.
He added that with the BJP having formed the government in the state, it would be the chief minister who led them in the next Assembly elections. Kateel cited the example of Uttar Pradesh, where the 2022 Assembly polls will be contested under incumbent Chief Minister Adityanath’s leadership.
“It is the same for all states, when the party is in government,” he said, according to PTI. “When not in government it will be the party president, while in government it will be chief minister along with the president... so the leadership will be his [Bommai], along with him we will all work collectively, there is no difference on that.”
But BJP leaders who have called for a “collective leadership” are skeptical of the message that the selection of Bommai would send to the party’s Hindutva ideologues, according to PTI.
Bommai, like Yediyurappa, belongs to the Lingayat community that comprises only 17% of the state’s population. Also, Bommai is reportedly not close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological mentor of the BJP.