Govind Karjol and Pralhad Joshi also in the race

The Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka is in the process of selecting a new president for the State unit of the party, and the new incumbent, it is stated, will hold office for three years and not merely during the run-up to the Legislative Assembly elections due in May.

With the post of the Chief Minister being held by a member of the Veerashaiva community (Jagadish Shettar), the post of the party president is likely to go to a Vokkaliga, most likely Minister for Home and Transport R. Ashok, who is also a Deputy Chief Minister. There are two other contenders — Govind Karjol (Scheduled Caste) and Pralhad Joshi (Brahmin). Mr. Karjol is also member of the Council of Ministers but does not belong to the Sangh Parivar given the fact that he is a relatively new entrant to the BJP.

Senior party leader, Arun Jaitley along with Dharmendra Pradhan will be in Bangalore on Saturday to select Mr. Eshwarapppa’s successor, although the party’s choice for the presidentship is expected to be announced by Rajnath Singh, national president, subsequently. Mr. Jaitely and Mr. Pradhan will hold discussions with all leaders to arrive at a consensus apparently to ensure that the unity in the party is not disturbed.

Informed sources in the BJP told The Hindu that it was originally contemplated to have an interim president for the State unit given the serious intraparty differences here. However, the party high command is stated to be of the view that the new president should have a full term and that if a Minister in the Jagadish Shettar government has to be appointed, then he has to relinquish his position. It is another matter that the Election Commission is expected to announce the calendar for the Assembly elections, in about a fortnight, consequent to which the Ministers in the government will not have much of a say in matters of administration.

Mr. Eshwarappa, who was appointed Deputy Chief Minister in the Jagadish Shettar government, has been holding a dual responsibility for the last eight months although it went against the BJP constitution, wherein it is prescribed that no individual can hold two positions. On his part, Mr. Eshwarappa preferred to be Deputy Chief Minister and relinquish charge as the head of the State unit of the party.

The election of the State president was to have been held in November and it was originally stated that Mr. Eshwarappa will continue to hold charge of the dual posts until such time. However, the exit of the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa from the BJP followed by the exit of several ministers and legislators resulted in the appointment of a new president being relegated to the background. It is said Mr. Rajnath Singh is keen that the State unit should have a new president ahead of the elections.

Sources associated with Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar told The Hindu that if the party has to get into top gear for the Assembly elections then an appropriate person with leadership qualities and charisma should take charge as the State president. Towards this end, all the leaders should come together and participate in the selection of the president rather than the latter being summarily appointed by the national leadership.