(Eds: Updating with more details and reactions) Bengaluru, June 6 (PTI) Amid speculations about a leadership change in Karnataka, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on Sunday said he will continue in the top post as long as the BJP high command has confidence in him.
The Chief Minister also said he won't agree that there was no alternative leader in the state BJP to replace him.
However, following the statement, several legislators and Ministers considered close to Yediyurappa rallied around him, questioning the need for leadership change, and asserted that he would complete the term and even lead the party during the next polls two years away.
According to them, his statement was made out of 'pain', following recent developments and open remarks by some leaders on leadership change, amidst efforts by the administration to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
'...as long as the Delhi high command has confidence in me, I will continue as the Chief Minister. The day they say they don't want me, I will resign and work day and night for the development of the state,' Yediyurappa said in response to a question on attempts in some quarters to unseat him.
Speaking to reporters here, he said, 'I'm in no confusion. They (high command) have given me an opportunity.
I'm trying beyond my strength to utilise the opportunity for good. Rest is left to the high command.' To a question on 'alternative leadership' to replace him, Yediyurappa said 'I will not criticise anyone. I won't agree that there is no alternative person.
There will always be alternative persons in the state and the country...but until the high command has confidence in me, I will continue as the Chief Minister.' This is probably the first time the 78-year old Lingayat strongman has spoken in detail on the issue of leadership change and on an alternative leader to replace him in the state BJP, ever since speculations began in this regard.
While a section in the state BJP sees the CM's statement as an indication that he may have got some signals from the high command that he may have to step down soon, others in the party feel that this may be part of Yediyurappa's strategy to show his strength to detractors and top brass, as several MLAs and Ministers were seen coming out in his support today.
Speculations have been rife for some time that efforts were on within a section of the ruling BJP to exert pressure for unseating Yediyurappa.
The recent visit by Tourism Minister C P Yogeeshwara and Hubballi-Dharwad West MLA Arvind Bellad to Delhi, reportedly to meet the high command and express the feelings of some legislators against Yediyurappa's style of functioning and request them to rein in the Chief Minister had given credibility to such speculation.
Also, citing certain government decisions,handling of the COVID crisis and alleged instances of corruption, some MLAs were said to be pushing for a legislature party meeting.
However, state BJP President Nalin Kumar Kateel and Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi have ruled out leadership change and said Yediyurappa will complete the term.
'This is the speciality of the BJP. Yediyurappa is the role model for our workers. What he has said is that he will abide by the high command and the party's instructions and will not stick to power.
However, there has been no such discussion (on leadership change) in the party. Yediyurappa is our unanimous leader,' Kateel told reporters in Mangaluru.
Criticism from certain sections and opposition parties might have naturally pained him, he said.
On those within the party openly making statements,Kateel said it has been decided to call them and hold discussions this month and their concerns would be resolved by the party.
In Hubballi, Joshi said the CM's response is in the wake of recent developments and having grown as its loyal worker,he has said he will abide by the central leadership's decision.
'There is no proposal before the party to replace him as he is working efficiently even at this age.' Meanwhile, Revenue Minister R Ashoka and Home Minister Basavaraj S Bommai, who met the CM at his official residence, said Yediyurappa made the statement out of pain, following the recent political developments on talk in some quarters about leadership change amidst the pandemic, and that he will complete the term.
'Leaders have said there is no leadership change. Myself, Bommai and all our cabinet colleagues are with Yediyurappa and he will continue as the Chief Minister...
It is our duty to put a full stop to those making statements to project as though something is wrong in the government and we will do it,' Ashoka said, as he pointed out at Yediyurappa's efforts in building the party.
Bommai said, in the 2018 election, the mandate was in the name of Yediyurappa and for his leadership.
It was to make him the Chief Minister that 17 legislators quit their parties and came to the BJP, which eventually helped in the formation of this government.
Recalling Yediyurappa's efforts in handling natural calamities and the COVID situation since taking over, he further said the high command recognises him as one among the senior most leaders in the organisation and his capability.
Several other Ministers and legislators too have come out in support of the CM and asserted that he will complete the term, as they hit out at those making statements against the government and its leadership for the sake of politics during the pandemic.
Yediyurappa's son and state BJP vice-president B Y Vijayendra had recently visited Delhi and met top party leaders, including national President J P Nadda and had reportedly requested that the dissidents be reined in.
Leaders like MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal and MLC A H Vishwanath have been embarrassing the government with their statements and Tourism Minister C P Yogeshwar recently got added to the list.
Vijayendra's alleged interference in the administration is seen as one of the main reasons for growing disgruntlement within the party against Yediyurappa's leadership, a charge repeatedly rejected by the Chief Minister's younger son.
Earlier too there has been intense speculation that the BJP high command was mulling a leadership change in Karnataka in the days to come, considering Yediyurappa's advancing age.
There is an unwritten rule in the BJP that leaders above 75 years should not hold ministerial positions.
Though BJP had officially rejected outright such speculation in the past, it refuses to die down,with some like senior MLA Yatnal giving credence to it with his statements, setting repeated 'deadlines' for Yediyurappa's exit.
Meanwhile, terming it as the ruling party's internal matter, state Congress chief D K Shivakumar called Yediyurappa a 'strong man' of BJP in Karnataka and said it was under his leadership that the party got 104 seats and formed the government with the help of disgruntled Congress-JD(S) MLAs.
He also said there was no discipline in that party as no action was taken despite open personal attacks against the CM.
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