(Eds: Updating with more quotes and inputs) Bengaluru, Jul 19 ( PTI) Karnataka BJP President Nalin Kumar Kateel's purported audio conversation hinting at the possible leadership change in the state,has fueled a new round of speculation on whether replacement of Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa is on the cards.
Though Kateel has dismissed as fake, the audio clip that has gone viral on the social media, it has stirred the political cauldron amid heightened the buzz within the ruling BJP circles that the exit of the 78 year-old Chief Minister and transition of power is not far away.
Yediyurappa, who will complete two years in office on July 26, visited New Delhi last week, meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP President J P Nadda.
The trip raised questions in some quarters over whether the party was now working out a succession plan.
On his return from the national capital, Yediyurappa had however, rubbished talk in some quarters that he is on his way out and asserted that the central leadership has asked him to continue in the post.
The surfacing of the audio clip on Sunday has led to a political buzz again on the leadership issue.
Kateel has termed the brief audio as 'fake' and demanded an inquiry into the tape, where the talk was about 'removing the entire team' without mentioning Yeddyurappa's name.
'Dont tell anybody... The entire team of Eshwarappa, Jagadish Shettar (Ministers) will be removed. We are making a new team...' the conversation went in Tulu language.
'Three names are there (for CM's post) but they won't be considered. Theyll put (appoint) from Delhi itself'.
Eshwarappa, who was earlier the state BJP President, is currently the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister, whereas Shettar, a former chief minister, is the Industries Minister in the Yediyurappa cabinet.
Amid all these developments, according to sources, Yediyurappa held a closed door meeting with a few Ministers who are said to be his close confidants.
Clarifying on the audio tape, Kateel said in Mangaluru that he has nothing to do with it.
'I'm writing a letter to the Chief Minister urging for a complete inquiry about it. Let the truth come out through it..
Several such incidents have happened in the past in politics. It is not right. Let there be an inquiry,' he said.
Reiterating that no discussions had taken place on the leadership issue or any other change in the party, Kateel said such talk was therefore 'irrelevant'.
'Yediyurappa is the 'aatma' (soul) of our party. He is our unanimous leader and senior to all of us. He has built the party to this level after several years of struggle.
Also Eshwarappa and Jagadish Shettar are like two eyes..
under the guidance of such senior leaders the party and the government will function,' he said.
Stating that he will not blame anybody for the audio tape without an inquiry, the state BJP chief said the facts will come out through it.
To a question on whether the voice in the audio tape resembles his, he said, 'I have nothing to do with it. Let the truth come out through inquiry... I will write to the CM for inquiry. I will cooperate with the inquiry.' After his meetings in Delhi, Yediyurappa on Saturday said 'So far, no one has asked me to resign. If there is any such news, there is no value to it.' However, speculation about his replacement refuses to die down as Yediyurappa has convened the BJP legislature party meeting on July 26 on the occasion of completion of two years in office.
Meanwhile, coming out in Yediyurappa's support, a prominent Veerashaiva seer Sri Veera Someshwara Shivacharya Swami of Rambhapuri Peetha of Balehonnur said replacing him would have 'big consequences' on the BJP.
'Friction is common in politics. Let anyone say anything, but we have confidence that B S Yediyurappa will continue as the Chief Minister and complete the term.
If there are any shortcomings in this, it will have big consequences on the party,' he said.
Yediyurappa has support from people across parties and communities for his efficient work during floods and COVID, even at this age, the seer said,adding that 'I have confidence that the national leadership (of BJP) will not allow it (CM replacement).' However, Yediyurappa's bete noire and senior BJP MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, who has been openly criticising the Chief Minister and seeking his ouster, clarified that he was not in the race to be CM and said the Prime Minister would choose an honest leader with Hindutva ideology for the post, who can ensure victory for BJP in the next election.
The Chief Minister's political secretary and staunch loyalist, M P Renukacharya,MLA, said it was a fake audio with a 'conspiracy' to defame BJP and the party president and there was no question of leadership change after Yediyurappa himself clarified on the matter after meeting the central leadership.
Reacting to his name being mentioned in the purported audio, Eshwarappa said he was a BJP 'karyakarta', development of the country and Hindu society had been the core areas of interest in his long political career and he was not in politics for power.
Meanwhile, Congress leader and Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Siddaramaiah, who has been predicting for quite some time now that Yediyurappa will be replaced, commenting on the developments, said it is good that a 'corrupt' Chief Minister is 'going'.
'I had in the past said that CM will be changed, none of you believed. I had information about this from the beginning.
Also, Yediyurappa's is the most corrupt government. Both Yediyurappa and his son are corrupt,' he said.
JD(S) leader and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy advised BJP that it would be better if the party resolves its issues behind closed doors or else it would be difficult to address the problems faced by the people.
'Repeatedly information is given to media from within the party (BJP) that the Chief Minister will be replaced and the CM subsequently clarifies that he will continue for remaining two years... this is going on for the last two years....the ruling party should function with caution,' he said.PTI KSU RS APR ADMINISTRATOR RS APR ADMINISTRATOR