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BJP to await outcome of Rajnath-Gowda meeting

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IN DISCUSSION: BJP president Rajnath Singh and senior leaders L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Arun Jaitley and M. Venkaiah Naidu at the BJP Parliamentary Board meeting in New Delhi on Thursday.
IN DISCUSSION: BJP president Rajnath Singh and senior leaders L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Arun Jaitley and M. Venkaiah Naidu at the BJP Parliamentary Board meeting in New Delhi on Thursday.

New Delhi Bureau

Party’s Parliamentary Board briefed on Karnataka developments

NEW DELHI: The BJP Parliamentary Board on Thursday put off a decision on Karnataka for a few more days. It will await the outcome of the expected talks between party president Rajnath Singh and Janata Dal (Secular) president H.D. Deve Gowda here on Friday.

After an 80-minute meeting of the BJP top brass here, the in-charge of the party’s political affairs in the State, Yashwant Sinha, told journalists that the Board would meet again on October 6, a day after the expected talks between Mr. Singh and Mr. Gowda on transfer of chief ministership to the BJP, to “take an appropriate decision.”

Referring to the 20-month old agreement between the two parties under which the JD (S) would enjoy the chief ministership for the first 20 months and the BJP the remaining 20 months of the government’s tenure, Mr. Sinha said the accord was “non-negotiable” as was the BJP’s favourite for the chief minister’s job, B.S. Yediyurappa.

He reiterated that the agreement would have to be implemented and “this will be conveyed to Mr. Deve Gowda when he meets Mr. Rajnath Singh.”

Asked whether the State was moving towards elections and the BJP was prepared for such a possibility, he said: “Political parties have to be ready for all eventualities.”

Senior BJP leaders said that given the arithmetic of the 225-member strong Assembly – the BJP 79, JD (S) 58, Congress 65, and the rest independents and smaller parties – there was a strong possibility of the party withdrawing support, if power transfer was not implemented very soon.

In the Congress, the view was that it should allow the government to fall, than make a second attempt at government formation with the help of the JD (S) – the first led by the Congress collapsed in 20 months. The Congress feels it could benefit from the anti-incumbency factor that may work against the JD (S) and the BJP.

In the event of fresh elections, some BJP leaders said, the party could reap an electoral benefit by raising the slogan of power being denied to the Lingayats (a powerful community in Karnataka numbering about 17 per cent). Mr. Yediyurappa is a Lingayat and Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy belongs to the Vokkaliga community that has a strength of 12 per cent

Mr. Sinha said the BJP was following its coalition dharma; it had moved step-by-step and would not be hustled. It would take an appropriate decision at the right time.

The party had noted some statements made in Bangalore – a reference to Mr. Kumaraswamy’s reported remarks about early elections – and the BJP “disapproved of such statements by responsible leaders.”

Was there a ray of hope for the BJP that it would get its first chief minister in the South? Mr. Sinha said the party wanted the “political process” to be completed and would wait for the outcome of the Rajnath-Gowda meeting.

Asked whether the BJP could try to muster a majority of its own through defections, he said the party would not “engineer defections” but if it “happens on its own, it is always welcome.”

However, other senior leaders indicated that given the gap of 35 between the BJP’s strength and the bare majority, that was unlikely.

The Board was briefed on the political developments in Karnataka by State leaders Sadanand Gowda and Mr. Yediyurappa, Mr. Sinha, who recently spent a few days in Bangalore, senior leader Venkaiah Naidu and general secretary Ananth Kumar.

Hyderabad Special Correspondent writes:

In Hyderabad, Mr. Naidu told reporters that the issue of Chief Minister’s post was “non-negotiable” and the question of leadership would be decided by the BJP. However, the party was ready to discuss other issues.

Mr. Naidu said the BJP was not seeking any favour or charity from the JD (S).

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