He now has the task of leading the party in Assembly polls

Ending months of speculation, the Bharatiya Janata Party central leadership on Thursday appointed Dharwad MP Pralhad Joshi as president of the party’s Karnataka unit.

The announcement regarding the appointment of the 50-year-old Mr. Joshi, who is presently State party general secretary, was made in Delhi by BJP national president Rajnath Singh.

The appointment came about after the incumbent, Deputy Chief Minister K. S. Eshwarappa, resigned as State party president soon after the completion of polling for the urban local bodies on March 7 in tune with the party’s “one man, one post” norm.

The contenders

There were several contenders for the post including Mr. Joshi, Dakshina Kannada MP Nalin Kumar Kateel, the former Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda and Minister Govind Karjol. But the choice had finally narrowed down to Mr. Joshi and continuation of Mr. Eshwarappa till the Assembly polls.

However, the political balance tilted in favour of Mr. Joshi due to various reasons, including his proximity to Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar as well as party national general secretary Ananth Kumar. Mr. Joshi, a second-time MP, hails from the Chief Minister’s home district of Dharwad.

The soft-spoken Mr. Joshi has an unenviable task of heading the ruling party, — which is struggling to retain its hold as it is battered by not only infighting, desertions by leaders and allegations of corruption involving its ministers, but also political instability that came in the way of delivering good governance — just before the Assembly polls.

BJP sources said that the party organisation had involved the main contenders for the presidential post, including Mr. Joshi, in all its decision-making process in the last few months so that they do not require much time to get a grip over the organisational network. In fact, the party had commenced its poll campaign in the form of district-level conventions from Thursday even before the appointment of a full-fledged State president.

Organisational polls

According to sources, the party would hold organisational election for the State president’s post some time after the Assembly elections. Mr. Joshi’s appointment is expected to be ratified in these organisational elections so that he would get a full term of three years.

By choosing a young leader with a strong organisational background for the top post, the party has sent a message that it is keen on nurturing new leadership with a long-term vision at a time when some of its senior leaders are facing various allegations and the party is witnessing desertions by MLAs.

Mr. Joshi, who has RSS background, was in the forefront of several campaigns by the party in north Karnataka including the Idgah struggle and location of south-western railway headquarters at Hubli.