Days after Union Home Minister Amit Shah's visit to Karnataka, the state BJP unit is busy addressing the buzz that the the party might change the Chief Minister again and free Basavaraj Bommai of the responsibility "by August 15".
Those speaking of change in the poll-bound state include BJP leader Basanagouda Patil, who had earlier predicted that BS Yediyurappa would be replaced with Mr Bommai — which is what happened a little over a year ago. Mr Patil recently made some cryptic statements that the high command will decide what's "best for the party", as did another senior leader, B Suresh Gowda.
But a section of senior leaders, including state unit boss Nalin Kumar Kateel, has sought to scotch these theories. Mr Kateel said Basavaraj Bommai "will complete his tenure".
Leaders' posturing aside, Basavaraj Bommai's position is being seen as jittery particularly after the recent murder of a BJP youth wing leader in Dakshina Kannada district. Even state unit chief Nalin Kateel faced protests from party activists who said the government failed to protect its own people.
Revenue Minister R Ashoka further denied that Mr Kateel, too, may be on his way out. "There will be neither CM change nor will BJP state chief be replaced; we will go to polls under their leadership," he said.
Mr Kateel said the election will be fought under Mr Bommai's leadership, "with the guidance of BS Yediyurappa".
They reacted with sarcasm to tweets by the Congress, which has called Mr Bommai a "puppet CM". R Ashoka said, "Did Amit Shah or the Prime Minister tell you (about CM change)? Things have rotten within your own party because of your infighting... clear that first."
Though the BJP did not win the last elections in 2018, it wrested power a year later — BS Yediyurappa became chief minister — as the Congress-JD(S) coalition government fell. Two years later, in July 2021, Mr Bommai got the chair.
Assembly elections are due by May next year, exactly a year before the Lok Sabha polls.
A leadership change ahead of elections is not unheard of, according to B Suresh Gowda, a BJP leader and former MLA, who statements spurred the change theory most recently. "Whether six or eight months left for elections, CM change has happened in the past," he said.
"This is left to the central government. It won't happen just because we say it. There are rumours that if changes happens, it will happen on or before August 15," he said.
On similar lines, Basanagouda Patil, MLA from Bijapur and a former minister, said, "Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are aware of all political developments in the state. They will take an informed decision. I trust the high command to decide what is best for us and our party."
Those denying any change include Higher Education Minister Ashwath Narayan, a loyalist of Basavaraj Bommai. He said the Congress is "planting and engineering such baseless allegations and rumours". "Chief Minister Bommai has been doing such good work. Expectations of the people are very high. And he will continue as the Chief Minister."
The Karnataka Congress had tweeted, "Instead of providing relief to the people suffering from floods at a war footing, the BJP in Karnataka is looking at installing its third Chief Minister."