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Thursday, July 07, 2022

Karnataka CM Bommai back in Delhi, fresh talk of changes

Party leadership unhappy over failure to take on Vokkaliga criticism

Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru |
Updated: June 24, 2022 11:00:55 am
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai at Karnataka Bhavan in New Delhi. (Express photo)

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai set out on Thursday for his eleventh visit to New Delhi since taking over less than a year ago. The sudden, one-day visit following summons issued by the BJP leadership on Wednesday afternoon has given rise to fresh speculation of changes in the state Cabinet.

While the official travel plan has meetings scheduled with Union ministers, Bommai himself did not comment on the purpose of the visit, unlike in the past. Sources in the Chief Minister’s Office indicated that the official purpose was that Bommai was to be among the proposers of NDA presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu. She is expected to file her nomination on Friday.

Bommai was in Delhi most recently on June 17, where he attended a private event. Before that, he travelled to the Capital on May 20, after he was suddenly called to Delhi by the BJP leadership, trailed by rumours of changes in his government. At the time, Bommai had returned after just meeting Karnataka in-charge Arun Singh and speaking to Home Minister Amit Shah on the phone.

The Karnataka CM has been awaiting clearance from the BJP leadership for changes in his Cabinet, including filling up of five vacancies, but has been kept waiting for the past year.

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Earlier, there was talk of the BJP going in for an entirely new Cabinet, including the CM – as done by it in Gujarat – but this has died out in recent weeks and the party seemed inclined to head to the 2023 state polls with Bommai as the CM.

During his visit to Bengaluru and Mysuru on June 20 and 21, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made it a point to compliment Bommai. Industries minister Murugesh Nirani, considered at one time challenger to Bommai from the Lingayat community, said Thursday: “He (Bommai) is doing a good job and will continue as CM. The CM has full authority to carry out changes in Cabinet.”

But while Bommai’s position as CM has seemingly stabilised, there is some concern in the BJP over other fronts, especially “failure” of leaders of the Vokkaliga community to take up issues, including attacks on the government and the PM by the JD(S), led by Vokkaliga leaders H D Deve Gowda and son H D Kumaraswamy.

“None of the ministers and so-called Vokkaliga leaders in the Karnataka BJP have been able to rise to any stature in the community. They are seen as being involved in politics of understanding with Vokkaliga leaders like Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy for fear of personal political losses,” a leader said.

One change being talked about is the BJP bringing in new blood to lead the government and party from the Vokkaliga community ahead of the 2023 polls. BJP state president Nalin Kateel’s tenure ends in August.

In recent weeks, the BJP government has been on the backfoot, with the Congress and JD(S) attacking it over changes in school textbooks that are perceived as projecting state religious, cultural and social icons in a lesser light. The BJP response has been muted, with Bommai agreeing to some of the demands.

On Thursday, the BJP fielded Revenue Minister R Ashok, a Vokkaliga, and other ministers to counter the charge regarding disrespect to Vokkaliga icons. Ashok claimed a committee constituted by the previous Congress regime had deleted portions linked to Vokkaliga icons like Kuvempu and Kempegowda.

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