The spectre of another change in chief ministership has risen in Karnataka following the visit of Union Home Minister Amit Shah to the state last week.
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who has come under severe criticism from within the BJP itself following the recent murder of a youth leader in Dakshina Kannada district, went into self-isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 for a third time on August 6, ahead of a scheduled visit to Delhi.
Bommai reportedly looked out of sorts during a visit by Amit Shah on August 3. The chief minister was scheduled to travel to Delhi on August 6 and 7 to attend meetings chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi but cancelled his visit after testing positive. The cancellation of the visit to Delhi has been read by BJP leaders as a possible sign of the exit of the CM.
“There is a speculation that CM Bommai’s cancelation of his visit to Delhi was to avoid a possible suggestion to quit by the party leadership but this is not true. He had to cancel the trip after testing positive for Covid,” government sources close to the CMO said.
Two BJP leaders – former CM Jagadish Shettar and minister Govind Karjol – have recently refuted reports that they are in contention to become the next CM, which suggests a buzz in the BJP over a possible change in leadership. Meanwhile, minister Umesh Katti has said that he, too, would be in the reckoning in the event of a change in chief ministership.
A former BJP MLA who is considered to be close to the Yediyurappa camp has stated that the Karnataka CM could be changed even before August 15.
“There could be a change of CM even before Independence Day. There has been some talk in the party,” former BJP MLA Suresh Gowda said in Tumakuru Monday.
According to sources in the state government, the BJP leadership is concerned over its government in Karnataka losing credibility owing to various issues in recent weeks, including murders of party workers and poor administration. The BJP is also reportedly concerned over factionalism disrupting the party’s preparations in the run up to the next state polls in 2023. “The BJP is concerned over former CM Yediyurappa distancing himself from the party and the possible repercussions and wants to address these issues as well,” government sources said.
Given multiple concerns in the Karnataka BJP unit – including the lack of a credible Lingayat leader to fill the shoes of Yediyurappa – the party’s central leadership may prefer to maintain a status quo in the state with Bommai, also a Lingayat, as the CM, government officials added.
Opposition Congress has grabbed the political opportunity offered by the uncertainty in the BJP.
“The game of puppetry with the puppet CM Bommai is set to end. The lack of any comments or celebrations among BJP ministers following the visit of Amit Shah is an indicator of the impending change. The BJP has gone into mute mode since the visit of Amit Shah. The time has come for a third CM to assume office in the 40 percent government,” the Karnataka unit of the Congress said on social media Tuesday.
“The BJP leadership has set out to topple Bommai. Is this change going to be to admit the failure of the government or to keep up the tradition of appointing three CMs each time?” the Congress said.
“Why is there a move afoot to change you Mr Bommai? Is it due to infighting in the BJP, the anger of Yediyurappa or due to a failure of administration?” the Congress further stated.