Karnataka BJP back to bickering on Gowda as CM

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s faction-ridden Karnataka’s government is again caught in a bitter row on continuation of Chief Minister DV Sadananda Gowda in office.

Around 40 of the party’s 120 legislators, including many ministers, Tuesday demanded a party meeting within three days to discuss replacing Gowda with Rural Development Minister Jagadish Shettar.

These legislators are loyalists of the BJP’s first chief minister in the state, B.S. Yeddyurappa, who was forced to quit July last year over mining bribery charges. Yeddyurappa and his loyalists have been demanding for several months that Gowda, who was his hand-picked successor, be removed as chief minister.

The legislators met at the residence of Public Works Minister C. M. Udasi here to firm up a strategy to force the party national leaders to agree to replace Gowda with Shettar.

“Yeddyurappa and Shettar will go to Delhi in a day or two to impress upon the party’s national leaders to immediately call a meeting of the BJP legislature party,” Udasi told reporters after the meeting.

However, Yeddyurappa’s trip to Delhi will depend on the Karnataka High Court decision Wednesday on his plea for anticipatory bail in the mining bribery case being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the directive of the Supreme Court.

The CBI has been stoutly opposing the bail plea. Justice Subhash B. Adi of the high court Tuesday reserved his order for Wednesday.

Udasi declined to spell out what they would do if the legislature wing’s meeting is not called within three days.

The latest round of heightened dissident activity in the BJP comes against the backdrop of increasing talk of year-end polls to the assembly, about five months ahead of schedule.

The last assembly polls which brought the BJP to power for the first time in the state were held in May 2008.

“The Election Commission has the powers to hold the elections anytime six months prior to the expiry of the assembly’s term. Hence, the commission may decide to hold the elections in December,” Gowda said in Bangalore last week.

Another BJP-ruled state, Gujarat, is due for polls in December and there is speculation that the party may decide to club Karnataka with Gujarat as there is little hope of an end to factional fights in the southern state unit.