The Chief Minister's post is very a costly affair, Congress's BK Hariprasad, the Leader of the Opposition in Karnataka, said today, alleging that a senior BJP leader has quoted a price of Rs 2,500 crore.
"There are too many aspirants for the CM's post and there is big money involved. According to a BJP senior leader, one should cough up Rs 2,500 crore," he said, without naming anyone. Speculation about Basavaraj Bommai being replaced at the Chief Minister's post has been is being made for more than a month, but this was the first time any leader alleged that the post was for sale.
The latest speculation is that after BS Yediyurappa, the Lingayat strongman, was inducted into the parliamentary panel, the BJP's Central leadership will show the door to Mr Bommai.
Arun Singh, the national secretary of the BJP, dismissed rumours that Mr Bommai will be pushed out. Karnataka, he said, will go to elections next year with him as the Chief Minister.
"There is no question of removing Bommai. Our leadership has placed complete confidence in him. He will surely complete his term," he said.
Prabhu Chauhan, a minister in Mr Bommai's cabinet, accused of the Congress of engineering lies. "These rumours will continue. Bommai will continue. Congress is now out of work. They are just engineering lies. Congress has nothing else to speak. They should make up things, or they won't be able to grab headlines."
"I condemn this statement. This is just a lie. CM's seat is not for sale," he added.
Ashwathnarayan, the higher education minister and another loyalist of Basavaraj Bommai, also reiterated that he will remain the Chief Minister until the election.
"The existing Chief Minister will continue. He will be our Chief Minister. Not sure where these rumours are coming from," said Mr Ashwathnarayan.
Dismissing rumours of leadership change by senior leaders from Delhi has become a routine exercise now -- as was done before BS Yediyurappa was asked to step down.
Top sources in the BJP told NDTV that the high command is trying to balance the Lingayat-Vokkaliga vote by having BS Yediyurappa, a Lingayat leader, in the parliamentary committee and a Chief Minister who represents the Vokkalinga community.
While the Lingayats constitute 18 per cent of Karnataka's population, the Vokkaligas comprise 15 per cent of the voters.