BJP dodges embarrassment as rivalries reach critical mass

With the division between the rival camps in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party reaching a critical stage following the commencement of process of selection of an alternative leader, the party high command put off the Bangalore visit of its national general secretary and Karnataka in-charge Dharmendhra Pradhan to next week.

As both the warring camps got ready to fly to Delhi in separate chartered flights along with their supporters to pressure the high command to protect their interests, the central leadership decided to prevent the situation from going out of control by asking Mr. Pradhan to put off the visit. He is now expected to arrive in Bangalore tentatively either on July 2 or 3.

Earlier, Mr. Pradhan was scheduled to arrive in Bangalore on Friday to do the ground work regarding the selection of an alternative leader for the chief ministerial post with an eye on the Assembly elections. Though the choice was that of continuing Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda or replacing him by Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister Jagadish Shettar or party State unit president K.S. Eshwarappa, the political balance had shifted in favour of Mr. Shettar.

However, the supporters of the Chief Minister, who hitherto maintained a low profile, took an aggressive posture on Thursday urging the high command to desist from replacing him as he has maintained a clean image. If at all he has to be replaced, his successor should not be from the rival camp controlled by Mr. Yeddyurappa who is in the CBI dragnet, they insisted. They were supported by Mr. Eshwarappa, who agreed to go to Delhi along with Mr. Gowda and 11 ministers in a chartered aircraft to convey their stand to the central leaders and to oppose any move to elicit legislators’ views regarding leadership change.

Getting wind of it, the Yeddyurappa camp that met at the residence of Mr. Shettar too, got ready to fly their supporters to Delhi seeking leadership change.

Following this, the central leaders reportedly held telephonic conversations with both the camps and persuaded them to cancel their Delhi visit.

Two options

According to highly placed sources, the party has now decided to consider only the two options of either continuing Mr. Sadananda Gowda or replacing him with Mr. Shettar. “We realised that we need to do some more groundwork to ensure smooth implementation of whatever decision we take — either continuing Mr. Gowda or replacing him. This would be done within a few days,” sources said.

Though speculations were rife that the Gowda camp favoured dissolution of the Assembly if he was forced to quit, highly placed sources played it down by terming them as only pressure-building tactics.

Meanwhile, both the camps held several rounds of meetings of their supporters to finalise their political strategies.

Eshwarappa meets Pradhan

Later in the day, Mr. Eshwarappa, who is on a pilgrimage visit to Kedarnath along with his family members, called on Mr. Pradhan in Delhi and discussed developments in the State.

Sources close to Mr. Eshwarappa said his Delhi visit had been scheduled a month ago itself.

More In: Karnataka | National