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Monday, March 30, 2020

BJP MLAs meet Shettar, trigger talk of dissidence in Karnataka unit

On Monday evening, a group of senior BJP MLAs — Umesh Katti, Murugesh Nirani, Arvind Bellad and Shankar Patil Munenkoppa — met former chief minister Jagadish Shettar, who now holds the Industries portfolio, at his residence.

Written by Johnson T A , Liz Mathew | Bengaluru, New Delhi | Published: February 19, 2020 1:52:07 am
Karnataka BJP, Karnataka govt, B S Yediyurappa, Yediyurappa government, Karnataka BJ P infighting,  Indian express BS Yediyurappa, Jagadish Shettar.

A MEETING held by senior BJP leaders who have been denied Cabinet posts in the B S Yediyurappa government in Karnataka and an unsigned letter being circulated on social media seeking replacement of Yediyurappa, who turns 77 this month, has triggered speculation of dissidence brewing in the BJP.

On Monday evening, a group of senior BJP MLAs — Umesh Katti, Murugesh Nirani, Arvind Bellad and Shankar Patil Munenkoppa — met former chief minister Jagadish Shettar, who now holds the Industries portfolio, at his residence. All these MLAs were aspirants for ministerial posts but were not inducted into the Yediyurappa Cabinet in the recent expansion, when only 10 rebels from the Congress and JD(S) — who helped the BJP establish a clear majority in the Assembly — were inducted as ministers.

A day later, the party — both at the state and central level — played down the meeting.

Shettar himself denied organising a meeting of dissidents. He rushed to Yediyurappa’s home for a breakfast meeting in the morning to clarify that some senior party MLAs had met him regarding issues pertaining to the industries ministry in their constituencies, and no dissident activities had taken place.

“I did not hold any meeting of the MLAs. A few MLAs came to my residence to discuss issues in their constituencies. People keep coming to meet me and I cannot stop them,’’ Shettar said. “It was not a meeting of dissidents. I have explained to the chief minister,’’ he said.

The Yediyurappa camp also rejected speculation of dissidence in the party. “Some rumours were spread by a disgruntled former assistant of the CM of a meeting of dissidents. There is no such activity or concern in the government,’’ said an associate of the Chief Minister.

In Delhi, the party’s central leadership firmly backed Yediyurappa, saying there is no other leader in the state who enjoys such public support. “There is no threat to Yediyurappa or his government,” said BJP general secretary P Muralidhar Rao.

Party sources termed the developments as “pressure tactics” by state leaders. “Those who could not be accommodated (in the Cabinet)… are miffed with the state leadership. There are many senior party leaders who are waiting in the wings to succeed Yediyurappa. They just want to keep the political scene active there,” said a senior party leader.

“There is pressure from both the groups. In fact, the state unit is facing an issue of plenty of competent leaders,” the leader said.

According to sources, some senior party leaders have communicated their differences and disillusionment with Yediyurappa’s style of functioning. A BJP leader admitted that some of them had expressed displeasure over “interference” by Yediyurappa’s son, B Y Vijayendra, in the functioning of the government. “There are complaints that he acts like a super CM in the state,” said the leader.

However, sources said, the national leadership is “strongly backing” Yediyurappa. “He is the most popular leader and the party has experienced huge losses by antagonising him,” said a BJP leader.

Among the MLAs who met at Shettar’s residence on Monday, Umesh Katti has been aggrieved over losing out on a Cabinet position despite winning eight elections. He recently met BJP central leaders in Delhi, in what is believed to be an attempt to muster support for his candidature. Murugesh Nirani, a former industries minister, has also been canvassing for a post.

BJP sources said Yediyurappa may induct Katti and another senior BJP leader, Arvind Limbavalli, into the Cabinet by April, but would not carry out any other major changes till June, when there may be a big reshuffle after polls to the Legislative Council, where several members are scheduled to retire.

Meanwhile, an anonymous four-page letter is being circulated on social media, and in BJP circles, suggesting that Yediyurappa should step down as CM and play the role of an advisor or “margdarshak’’ after he turns 77 on February 27 this year. The letter claims that Yediyurappa’s family has begun to play active roles in the administration, which goes against the BJP’s principles.

The letter says the BJP’s central leadership was not in favour of the veteran leader assuming the position of CM.

BJP leaders and Yediyurappa’s associates refused to comment on the letter. “We don’t know the thinking of the high command. Let us see what they decide,’’ said a state party leader.

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