TAMIL NADU

Ananth Kumar, Karnataka BJP chief

NEW DELHI JUNE 26. The Bharatiya Janata Party today announced the revamping of the Karnataka unit, placing the Union Urban Development Minister, Ananth Kumar, as its head. He will replace Basavaraj Patil Sedam, who had "offered his resignation" to the party President, M. Venkaiah Naidu, several months ago.

For now, Mr. Kumar will not be resigning as Union Minister. "It is not at all an issue of sticking to any chair; it is the prerogative of the Prime Minister and I will resign whenever he wants me to," Mr. Kumar said here today.

The immediate task before him was to improve the party position in the State where it had 34 per cent vote share, and make it a viable alternative to the Congress, he said.

Mr. Kumar hinted at an attempt to work out an alliance with Ramakrishna Hegde. In 1998, it had given good electoral results. At the moment, strengthening the party would be his priority. Poll alliances would be discussed later.

On Thursday, 25 MLAs and other party leaders from Karnataka, including Mr. Sedam, had come to meet Mr. Naidu and he made the announcement, which took no one by surprise, in their presence.

The move to shift Mr. Kumar back to party work in Karnataka has been pending since the major changes in the central party office and the anointment of Mr. Naidu as the party President.

The party's affairs in Karnataka have been a source of worry for the leadership. Mr. Kumar himself admitted that action had to be taken against six MLAs recently as they had indulged in cross voting during the Rajya Sabha elections. But for some time now, Mr. Kumar has been resisting the move to return to the State, and the party also felt earlier that since elections were still several months away, there was no need to hurry.

Over the last two weeks, the Karnataka in-charge of party affairs, Bal Apte, and the party General Secretary, Sanjay Joshi, visited Bangalore to take stock of the situation for which they met party MPs. It was then felt that it was time to make the move although organisational elections were on and a new State President was due to be elected by September. But clearly, the BJP did not want to wait even for three months.

The formula that has been worked out is that while Mr. Kumar will be the State President, B.S. Yeduyirappa, former President of the BJP State unit, will be the Chairman of the Election Campaign Committee.

Our Bangalore Special Correspondent reports:

A law graduate, Mr. Kumar, entered public life at the age of 16 in 1975 when he joined the JP movement against the Emergency and was jailed. Active in the student movement, he was general secretary of State unit of the ABVP and was nominated as the State convenor of the Save Assam Movement in 1982. In 1985, he became the national secretary of the ABVP.

Entering active politics in 1987 as State BJP Secretary, he served the party in various capacities such as general secretary (1988) and national secretary (1995).

In 1996, Mr. Kumar won the Bangalore South Lok Sabha seat. He repeated the performance in 1998 and was made the Union Minister for Civil Aviation, the youngest person to become a Cabinet Minister. Mr. Kumar, who was re-elected in 1999, has also served as Union Minister for Culture and Tourism.

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