Karnataka: Speculation doing rounds again over replacement of Yediyurappa as CM

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Bengaluru, May 26 (PTI) Even as Karnataka is battling the second wave of COVID-19, speculations were rife on Wednesday that some moves were on within the ruling BJP for replacing Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa.

Some Ministers and MLAs, for the first time, openly admitted to such moves to exert pressure for unseating the Karnataka BJP strongman.

Several legislators considered close to the Chief Minister rallied around him questioning the need for such a change, and asserted that the 78-year-old veteran will complete the term and will even lead the party during the next polls two years away.

Citing certain decisions taken by the government, its handling of COVID crisis, alleged instances of corruption, a few legislators are said to be pushing for convening a legislature party meeting after June 7, the last day of the lockdown.

'I have got information about several (legislators) camping in Delhi, I have even got to know about meetings taking place at various places, even today.I have seen in the media that several Ministers are also part of it...it is true that such discussions are taking place,' Revenue Minister R Ashoka said in response to a question.

'I have got to know about some (legislators) going to Delhi, it is hundred per cent true that developments are taking place...while some people are involved directly, some are indirectly involved.I'm seeing their statements in the media, but my priority is to stand with the people suffering due to Corona,' he added.

However, Deputy Chief Minister C N Ashwath Narayan, Home Minister Basavaraj S Bommai, Housing Minister V Somanna, Industries Minister Jagadish Shettar, said they were unaware of any such developments and ruled out leadership change.

Ashwath Narayan, terming the talk about leadership change as 'far from truth', said Yediyurappa is their Chief Minister and leader.

'We are all working under his leadership to control COVID, and there is no need to give importance to news about me being the possible replacement for CM post,' he said.

To a question about some legislators lobbying for leadership change in Delhi, Narayan said he was not aware of it and has heard about it only through the media. He also clarified that no legislature party meeting has been called on or after June 7, as is being speculated.

Bommai termed news about Chief Minister change and legislature party meeting being convened in June as 'not official' and mere 'speculations'.

While Somanna said the Chief Minister's seat was not vacant and that Yediyurappa was strong in his position, Shettar, also a former CM, said no such discussions regarding leadership have taken place either at the state or central leadership level.

According to reports, Tourism Minister C P Yogeeshwara and BJP Hubballi-Dharwad (West) legislator Arvind Bellad are camping in Delhi and said to have been trying to seek appointment with BJP national leadership to express the feeling of some legislators against Yediyurappa's style of functioning and request them to rein in the Chief Minister.

Reports that some more legislators are likely to join them, have created a flutter in BJP circles.

Earlier this month the visit of Bommai and state BJP vice-president B Y Vijayendra, son of Yediyurappa, to the national capital and their meeting with national leadership had created a buzz around leadership change and discussions regarding possible replacement that would be to the liking of the Lingayat strongman.

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition and Congress leader Siddaramaiah, who had several times in the past claimed that Yediyurappa will be replaced, repeated it on Wednesday as he also claimed that whoever will become the Chief Minister next, will also be weak.

'Yediyurappa has failed, he is the worst Chief Minister ever we had in Karnataka.He is the most incompetent, weak and corrupt Chief Minister. Attempts have been going on for some time to replace him, it looks like that it has come to the final stage now...the number of people seeking his replacement has increased,' he said.

Earlier too there have been intense speculation in some quarters that the BJP high command is mulling leadership change in Karnataka in the days to come considering Yediyurappa's advancing age.

Though the BJP had officially rejected outright such speculation in the past, it refuses to die down, with some within the party like senior MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal giving credence to it with his statements, setting repeated deadlines for Yediyurappa's exit.

Some MLAs, questioning as to what is Yediyurappa's 'mistake' for him to be replaced now, said there was no need for any signature campaign in favour of the CM, as they claimed all MLAs are with him.

BJP MLA and CM's political secretary S R Vishwanath sserted that Yediyurappa will remain in the top post for the remaining term, and will lead the party to victory during the next election.

'Our national president and central leaders have ruled out change.Despite this, such speculation, whenever some our leaders go to Delhi,is unwarranted...even if some of our own leaders are dreaming to become Chief Minister they should drop it,' he said.

Noting that it is under Yediyurappa's leadership the BJP got the mandate in Karnataka and also came to power, MLA Madal Virupakshappa said those whose names are being projected as probable CM candidates, cannot win elections without Yediyurappa.

'Those who cannot win on their own without Yediyurappa's name, how will they become CM. High command is aware that it is because of Yediyurappa that BJP has a government in south India today, and they don't want to lose it,' he added.

Ruling out any activities in Delhi, Shankar Gowda Patil, who is state government's special representative to New Delhi, said, 'It is true two legislators have gone to Delhi..ask why they have gone, check for yourself have they met any nation leaders, you will get to know.' Yediyurappa's style of functioning, governments decision to sell 3,667 acres of land to the JSW Group in Ballari district which the BJP had opposed while in opposition, handling of COVID crisis are said to be some of the issues based on which a few legislators have decided to approach the central leadership.

Also, some of them are said to be of the opinion that if a leadership change is planned, it has to happen now, as doing it too close to the election in 2023, will prove disadvantageous for the party, sources said. PTI KSU RS BN BALA BN BALA

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