At a time when infighting in the BJP's Karnataka unit has intensified, Chief Minister DV Sadananda Gowda is set to visit Delhi on Monday. Incidentally, party chief Nitin Gadkari's son's wedding reception is also on Monday in Delhi.
With nine ministers loyal to Karnataka strongman BS Yeddyurappa handing over their resignations to Mr Gowda yesterday, the party's central leadership today rushed the state in-charge to Bangalore to diffuse the crisis. Dharmendra Pradhan began his series of meetings at the BJP party office in Malleswaram, soon after he landed. First was a meeting with state party president KS Eshwarappa, then MLAs known to be neutral met with the central leader. By noon, the nine rebel ministers known to be loyal to Mr Yeddyurappa met Mr Pradhan to explain why the resigned. The meeting lasted for over an hour. Next was the turn to meet the Sadananda Gowda camp - only to be told by MLAs supporting Mr Gowda that if he were replaced then the group would resign too.
Sources say, the official reasons put to the central leadership for the resignation drama is that Mr Gowda was indifferent to them. The other big reason they say is that Mr Gowda was close to rival JDS' Deve Gowda. The chief minister, meanwhile, is unfazed by the latest rebellion against his leadership. After a brief meeting with Governor HR Bhardwaj at the Raj Bhavan this morning, he met with Dharmendra Pradhan to apprise him of the situation. Mr Gowda said he was confident that the crisis would be resolved soon. "We have faced such crisis in the past and we have resolved them successfully. This time also, I am confident we will resolve the crisis. Party central leaders have assured me", he said. His famous smile was firmly in place.
The nine ministers who handed their resignations to Mr Gowda yesterday are Jagadish Shettar, CM Udasi, Basavaraja Bommai, Murugesh Nirani, V Somanna, Umesh Katti, MP Renukacharya, Revu Naik Belamagi and Raju Gowda. But Mr Gowda has so far refused to accept their resignations. Mr Eshwarappa today also ruled out accepting their resignations. "There is no question of accepting the resignation of the ministers", he told reporters after a meeting with Mr Gowda.
A sulking Mr Yeddyurappa hasn't stepped out of his new home in Dollars Colony in Bangalore for the last two days. Sources say Mr Yeddyurappa, who is facing several legal hurdles after corruption cases were slapped against him, hopes that the central leadership would bring in a man who he proposes as chief minister. Apparently, Mr Yeddyurappa is not keen to bring the government down as he is himself facing a CBI probe.
The resignation of these ministers, if accepted, could stall much of government functioning. It will bring down the strength of the Sadananda Gowda cabinet to 13 ministers - the chief minister already tackles 21 portfolios.
Mr Yeddyurappa's camp - he claims he has the support of 70 MLAs (more than half of the BJP's total strength in the Assembly) - insist they want a change in leadership and have been demanding a legislature party meeting, which has not been called yet. The initial demand that Mr Yeddyurappa be brought back changed some months ago to one for a Lingayat leader as Chief Minister - minister Jagadish Shettar is the favoured candidate.
This is not the first time that Mr Yeddyurappa has put his party into an embarrassing spot - he is wont to do this periodically. The last time the Yeddyurappa camp brought matters to a boil with a resignation drama, ministers loyal to him had handed their resignations to Mr Yeddyurappa. By giving their letters to the Chief Minister this time, they have signalled that they are upping the ante. But Mr Yeddyurappa himself has been unusually quiet. He has said he will not speak for a month; Karnataka watchers say Mr Yeddyurappa, who is known to be very superstitious, will not do anything in the ashada month, considered inauspicious. He also moved to his new house in Dollars Colony in Bangalore just before the month began, and is said to hope it will bring him luck.
Mr Yeddyurappa was forced to quit as chief minister last year after a report by the state's ombudsman indicted him for corruption. He picked Mr Gowda as his successor. But lately, their relationship has soured, with the protege refusing to oblige his onetime mentor by stepping down. Mr Yeddyurappa's woes have grown considerably since a CBI investigation was ordered against him in illegal mining cases.
The resignation of nine ministers will not threaten the government and the rebel camp's move is clearly an effort to twist the BJP's central leadership's hand and force Mr Gowda out. The BJP's central leadership is reluctant to decide on this demand till the election for President of India takes place on July 19. Party president Nitin Gadkari is also busy with his son's wedding.
Mr Gowda is confident he will complete his term. Elections are due in Karnataka in less than a year.
The Congress and the JDS have not managed to cash in on the crisis within the BJP. Nor is the opposition ready for early elections. However, the opposition is demanding that the Karnataka Assembly be dissolved.