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Yediyurappa at the wheel, steering talks on next Karnataka BJP chief

Among favourites to succeed Nalin Kateel, whose term ends on Sunday, are Union minister Shobha Karandlaje, BJP national general secretary C T Ravi, state energy minister Sunil Kumar Karkala, and former state minister Arvind Limbavalli.

Yediyurappa is now back at the forefront of BJP affairs in the state since being appointed to the 11-member Parliamentary Board. (File)

A series of meetings former Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa held in Delhi with top BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president J P Nadda and national organisation secretary B L Santhosh, on Friday is expected to have a bearing on the BJP’s decision on a new party president in Karnataka. Incumbent state BJP chief Nalin Kateel’s three-year term ends on Sunday.

Among the favourites to succeed Kateel are Union minister Shobha Karandlaje, a former associate of Yediyurappa; BJP national general secretary C T Ravi; state energy minister Sunil Kumar Karkala; and former state minister Arvind Limbavalli.

Although Yediyurappa denied that the issue of the next Karnataka BJP chief cropped up during the discussions with the leadership, it is considered to be a pressing matter in the run-up to the Assembly polls next year. A year after being ejected from the CM’s post in July 2021, Yediyurappa has recently been rehabilitated by being included in the BJP Parliamentary Board, which is the party’s highest decision-making body. The party’s state unit in the southern state is now up against strong negative sentiments towards Kateel.

Kateel is said to have been backed by Santhosh when he took charge of the state unit. He was at the receiving end of the anger of right-wing workers on July 27 following the murder of a BJP youth leader in Dakshina Kannada district. In recent weeks the state BJP chief has also faced criticism on social media for his alleged inefficacy as a party leader and MP from Dakshina Kannada. Sources in the party said that the change of guard at the top of the state unit was inevitable.

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Prime Minister Modi is set to address a rally in Mangaluru in Dakshina Kannada on September 2. This comes at a time when Kateel’s popularity on his home turf has hit an all-time low. The change in the state BJP leadership is expected to happen around the time of the PM’s visit. “The party will decide on it and I will not break my head about it,”’ Yediyurappa said in New Delhi on Friday when asked about the prospects of a new state BJP president.

He added, “I spoke to Nadda ji and told him to dedicate more time to the state and travel around to bring the party to power. He has said that he will give time to the state. The September 2 program of the PM in Mangaluru is something we want to be held in a big manner. PM, Nadda ji, and Amit Shah ji will give more time to Karnataka. I have discussed the Karnataka political situation and the party situation in detail with Nadda ji and I requested him to come frequently to Karnataka since we are facing elections within eight months and we must win the elections.”

Denying that the purpose of his visit was to discuss who will take over from Kateel, the former Karnataka CM said, “When I have been given a new responsibility, I think it is my duty to meet all of them and hold discussions. The directions and advice they give will be taken and implemented.”

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Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Sunday said he was unaware of talks to replace Kateel as the party president and backed the state BJP chief.

“I do not know about it (possible change in the party chief). The discussion has not taken place,” Bommai said. “Over the last three years, Kateel has run the party in an efficient manner. He has travelled around the state some eight to 10 times. He organised the party from the booth level for the gram panchayat elections and for the Vidhan Parishad polls. He has done it successfully. We are going ahead in his leadership. His leadership will strengthen the party.”

Importance of Yediyurappa

Since Kateel succeeded Yediyurappa as the party president in 2019, the former CM drifted away from the party. He is now back at the forefront of BJP affairs in the state since being appointed to the 11-member Parliamentary Board, which also has Santhosh, on August 17.

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On the day he was appointed to the BJP national panel, Yediyurappa returned to the party office. In the three years (2019 to 2022) he was away from mainstream party organisation activities, Yediyurappa visited the party office only to attend meetings if he was invited.

On August 4, in the first sign that the BJP would be falling back again on Yediyurappa to guide it in Karnataka, Amit Shah flew down to Bengaluru and held meetings with BJP leaders, including a 20-minute discussion with Yediyurappa, on the party’s strategies for the Assembly polls. In his Independence Day speech, Yediyurappa announced that Karnataka BJP would contest the elections under collective leadership and would not project any leader.

First published on: 28-08-2022 at 01:49:59 pm
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