In what could further precipitate the crisis in the Karnataka unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa praised UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi today.
"I have to praise Sonia Gandhi. When she came to Tumkur for the Siddaganga function; I noticed that Congress party people are united and supportive. If any of their party members get into trouble, they help each other and resolve the issue," he said at a public function in Bangalore.
He further hit out at the BJP saying "In the BJP, people will be waiting for a person to face some problem and then put him down, and grab his position. In our party, our leaders will be happy only after some kind of punishment is handed out, and that is difference with Sonia Gandhi."
Mr Yeddyurappa's outburst comes in the midst of a continuing crisis in the Karnataka unit of the BJP. Sources say the former Karnataka chief minister and nine of his supporters have threatened to resign from state assembly. They are apparently miffed over the lack of support shown to Mr Yeddyurappa by the BJP after the Supreme Court, on Friday, ordered the CBI to probe him for nepotism, illegal land acquisition and favouring top mining companies.
Mr Yeddyurappa and his supporters, according to sources, are also upset over Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda and state party president KS Eshwarappa not being supportive of him. The former chief minister is also feeling sad that Mr Gowda 'betrayed' his trust, sources add.
Karnataka Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda, who is in Delhi for the 60 years of Parliament celebrations, met BJP President Nitin Gadkari at his residence this evening to discuss Mr Yeddyurappa's rebellion. Chhatisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley were also present for the meet.
Earlier today, trying to calm down the sulking leader, BJP's Karnataka unit party chief K S Eshwarappa called on Mr Yeddyurappa today and expressed the hope that the problem would be resolved within two days.
"We had discussions with our leader Yeddyurappa. We shared with each other our thoughts and feelings. I believe this problem will be resolved in one or two days", Mr Eshwarappa told reporters after a 45 minute-long meeting with the Lingayat strongman.
Reflecting on the crises faced by the party in the past, Mr Eswarappa said, "For the last four years, BJP in Karnataka has faced certain problems. Every time we overcame it".
"This time again, Yeddyurappa ji has certain grievances. I met him personally and we both shared our grievances... this problem will also be resolved in one or two days," he added.
Sources have told NDTV that the Yeddyurappa camp is using the resignation threats for a change in guard in the state. The former chief minister wants Mr Gowda to be removed and a Lingayat leader, like him, to be appointed as the chief minister instead, sources said. Mr Yeddyurappa, who met with his loyalists on Saturday, also threatened to walk out of the party. He also shot off two letters to the chief minister with signatures of 38 MLAs seeking convening of an emergency legislature party meeting but Mr Gowda has rejected the call.
On Saturday, Ministers Basavaraj Bommai, Murugesh Nirani, V Somanna, Umesh Katti, CM Udasi, MP Renukacharya and Shobba Karandlaje submitted their resignation letters to Yeddyurappa, authorising the former chief minister to take a call. Other ministers like Raju Gowda and Animal Husbandry Minister Revunaik Belamagi may hand over their resignation letters by Monday. Mr Yeddurappa will then decide whether to "accept" the resignations. In actuality, that would be a decision taken by the party, but it does make things tougher for Sadananda Gowda, the man who Mr Yeddyurappa is desperate to replace.
The show of strength and support suggests Mr Yeddyurappa does not intend to abandon attempts to be reinstated as chief minister, so far firmly rejected by the BJP's central leadership.
The Supreme Court had on Friday asked the CBI to file its report against Mr Yeddyurappa by August 3, asking it to probe the allegations that the Prerna Trust managed by members of Mr Yeddyurappa's immediate family received a huge donation from the mining company favoured by him.
Mr Yeddyurappa, while welcoming the Supreme Court order, had said, "Political conspiracy hatched against me has made me an accused in illegal mining though it is I who stopped it. I am facing the trouble after doing good work. I know how to come out of this political labyrinth."
Meanwhile, the BJP is downplaying the crisis saying the situation is under control. The party's central leadership spoke to Yeddyurappa yesterday and asked him not to precipitate the crisis but the Lingayat strongman refused to budge and continued consultations on his future political moves with his confidante legislators.
Ever since the BJP government assumed office in Karnataka in May 2008, it has faced several revolts but managed to survive.
In 2009, former minister and mining baron G Janardhana Reddy had led a revolt and took away more than 45 MLAs to resorts in Hyderabad and Goa demanding Yeddyurappa's removal as Chief Minister. In 2010, 16 MLAs, including five independents, had withdrawn support to Yeddyurappa government but it survived in the wake of Speaker KG Bopaiah disqualifying them ahead of the two floor tests.
In July last year, Mr Yeddyurappa reluctantly relinquished the post of Chief Minister after he was strongly indicted in an illegal mining report by the Karnataka Lokayukta. The Lingayat leader then handpicked Mr Gowda as his successor, envisaging him as a stop-gap arrangement till he made a bid for return as the chief minister after being cleared of the charges of corruption. But Mr Gowda will not go without a fight, and so far, the BJP has kept him in office.
Armed with the support of 70 of the 100 MLAs in the state, Mr Yeddyurappa made a trip to New Delhi in March this year, hoping that would prove he should be back in power. But the party high command didn't oblige with reports of senior leaders like LK Advani wary of bringing back Mr Yeddyurappa to office as it would deflate their campaign against the Congress of tolerating corruption within its ranks.