As the leadership of the State government has come under the scanner for its alleged inability to handle the second wave of COVID-19, speculation is growing about the possibility of a replacement for Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa.
Sources in the State BJP revealed that the party high command last Thursday summoned Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai and BJP vice-president B.Y. Vijayendra, son of Mr. Yediyurappa, to New Delhi for discussions on various issues pertaining to the party, the State administration, the handling of the pandemic, and the sale of over 3,600 acres in Ballari district for JSW Steel Ltd.
However, Mr. Bommai and Mr. Vijayendra meeting Union Home Minister Amit Shah and the party’s national general secretary in charge of Karnataka, Arun Singh, has triggered many interpretations and speculation in party circles. But it is not yet clear whether discussions have occurred around a change in leadership in the State, sources said.
According to a party functionary, besides the age factor of the Chief Minister and the handling of the pandemic, complaints regarding Mr. Yediyurappa’s style of functioning had been pouring in from many quarters. There has been a demand for leadership change from a section of party MLAs during the past few months. Senior leader Basanagouda Patil Yatnal has said several times that the party would replace Mr. Yediyurappa soon after the elections to five States.
“The BJP high command knows well Mr. Yediyurappa’s stature in the State BJP. The party will initiate a dialogue on a change of guard only with his consent. Moreover, the candidate replacing him would be his choice,” a source.
The central leadership has been weighing the party’s prospects in the 2023 Assembly elections and other polls in the event of a change in leadership in the State, the source maintained.
At present, Mr. Bommai is close and loyal to the Chief Minister. Moreover, he belongs to the dominant Lingayat community and hails from North Karnataka. But the party would not discount the leadership qualities of other Ministers, including C.N. Ashwath Narayan. Mr. Narayan is a Vokkaliga leader and the party has been working to woo the community in the south, sources said.
In case of a change in leadership, the high command in all possibility might provide a suitable position to Mr. Vijayendra, either in the government or in the party. “One thing is certain, the party will not take a decision in a hurry, keeping in view its poll prospects in 2023 and 2024,” the source said.