Central leadership hinted at disciplinary action; Yeddyurappa reiterates he will quit today

The political crisis in Karnataka deepened on Saturday, with a clear division emerging in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party over the central leadership's firm directive to Chief Minister B.S.Yeddyurappa to resign following the Lokayukta's indictment over corrupt practices.

For the second time in less than three days, Mr. Yeddyurappa on Saturday conveyed to the central observers present here that he would resign on Sunday.

In the signed statement that was read out to the media outside his residence by loyalist Minister Basavaraj Bommai, the Chief Minister said he had already issued a statement on Thursday that he would tender his resignation on July 31.

Despite that, “even now, some media are misleading the public that I am not resigning. I, hereby, again clarify that I am submitting my resignation on the afternoon of 31/7/2011.”

The election of a new legislature party leader is set to happen only after the Chief Minister resigns. Of a total strength of 120 legislators that the BJP has in the Assembly, the Chief Minister's camp was believed to be bigger.

Two factions have emerged: one loyal to the central leadership and the other to Mr. Yeddyurappa. He himself has chosen to remain in the background but called the shots through loyalists. With the open defiance only mounting despite the party headquarters in New Delhi and the observers having opened lines of communication with both groups, it appeared that the central leadership may even choose to take disciplinary action in case the Chief Minister did not stick to his word.

The central observers — the former party president, Rajnath Singh, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley — made it clear that they were in Bangalore to get the Chief Minister to resign and facilitate the election of a new legislature party leader. In other words, they were not here to pander to the Chief Minister's demands: that his successor should be a legislator of his choice and that he should be made president of the party's State unit. On Saturday, there was a new demand raised: that MP from Bangalore South and former Union Minister, Ananth Kumar, should not be the next Chief Minister.

Through the day on Saturday, it was a numbers game with one section claiming that it had more than the other. The central observers' direction to the legislators to meet them individually and express the choice of leader was complied with only by evening, with the group allied to the Chief Minister arriving at the designated venue in two buses. The Reddy brothers (of Bellary mining fame), along with their legislator-supporters, were the last to come.

The legislators loyal to the Reddy brothers have so far remained in the background, although they officially claim that they are with the central leadership and also have respect for the Chief Minister. Should they extend support to Mr. Yeddyurappa, with whom they have common cause in the context of the Lokayukta report on illegal mining, the Yeddyurappa camp will emerge even stronger.

On Sunday, Mr. Yeddyurappa will address a public rally organised by the Balija community to felicitate him, the first time in three days that he will speak from a public platform after the start of the political crisis. At this meeting he is expected to speak his mind.

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