It’s July 25, the day BS Yediyurappa expected to receive a communiqué from the central leadership of BJP on continuation or termination of his chief ministership in Karnataka. As he awaits a message from Delhi, he has expressed willingness to accept his fate decided by the party. Despite many refuting a possibility of change in leadership, names of several probable candidates, who can replace Yediyurappa, have come to the fore.
The central leadership has reportedly shortlisted a few names keeping 2023 Karnataka assembly elections in mind. While ejecting 78-year-old Lingayat strongman BSY won’t be an easy job for the party leadership, here’s a list of the frontrunners:
Murgesh R Nirani
As Yediyurappa announced that he would abide by the top leadership’s instruction on July 25, speculation is rife that Karnataka Mines and Geology Minister Muruesh R Nirani is among those who would be the next chief minister. However, he has denied that he was lobbying to replace Yediyurappa. Nirani, who visited Delhi about a fortnight ago and termed his visit ‘successful’, reiterated his support to Yediyurappa. Further, as his visit to Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi triggered speculation that he went to seek blessings before assuming the new role, the minister sought to downplay it. Nirani, a three time BJP MLA, is an industrialist who owns the MRN Group, which runs sugar mills.
According to reports, Yediyurappa is likely to name state home minister Basavaraj Bommai, 61, if asked to suggest his successor for CM post. However, Bommai has denied the speculations and said nothing is official. “I don’t want to answer any speculative question,” he has said. In May, Bommai had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi setting the rumour mill alight over change in leadership. A few news reports even suggested that Bommai would be the next Chief Minister of the state. However, he had then clarified that the meeting was regarding the COVID situation in the state.
Basannagouda Patil Yatnal
It is believed that Basannagouda Patil Yatnal has strong RSS roots and his experience as union minister may benefit him. In fact, he is said to be popular in north Karnataka and was at the forefront of the agitation earlier this year by Panchamsali Lingayats seeking quota for the backward caste group. He was reportedly handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Karnataka BJP MLA Aravind Bellad, who is said to be from the faction of the party that is seeking Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa’s replacement, is also being seen as one of the prospects. The MLA from Hubli-Dharwad West had, in June, alleged that his phone was being tapped and attempts were on to fix him as part of some conspiracy, in order to defame him. Bellad had recently made repeated visits to Delhi reportedly to meet national leaders and express the concern of some legislators over Yediyurappa’s style of functioning and request them to rein in the Chief Minister. His visits to Delhi along with Tourism Minister C P Yogeshwar had sparked off speculation about attempts within the BJP to unseat Yediyurappa.
Union minister Pralhad Joshi, 58, a veteran BJP politician who has been representing Dharwad in Parliament since 2004. Responding to reports of him replacing Yediyurappa, Joshi has said, “No one has spoken to me about it (succeeding Yediyurappa). It’s only the media, which is discussing it. As no one has spoken to me, there is no need to react to it.”
An old guard, BL Santosh is one of the national joint general secretaries of BJP. His association with the BJP goes back to 1993 when he started as an RSS pracharak. In 2006, he moved to the BJP as Karnataka general secretary.
Four-time MLA Chikmagalur constituency, CT Ravi is also one of the national general secretaries of BJP. The 54-year-old leader was a minister in the state cabinet before he became the national general secretary on September 26, 2020.
Signs of rebellion within the BJP had emerged in August 2019 itself following the distribution of cabinet berths in Karnataka, with Vokkaliga leader Ravi posting a series of tweets indicative of dissent in the party ranks. The appointment of Ashwath Narayan as deputy chief minister over CT Ravi might not have gone down well with some sections of the party. “Neither am I a Dissident nor a Rebel. My Loyalty is only for BJP. But I am a Proud Individual loyal to my Principle. If my Pride is hurt, the Fighter in me comes to the fore. What can I do? I am a Fighter who has grown up from the Ranks with the blessings of People,” Ravi had posted on Twitter.
Yediyurappa camp has suspected that BJP national general secretaries BL Santosh and CT Ravi were against him and they wanted a change of leadership.
Karnataka deputy chief ministers CN Ashwath Narayan, Laxman Savadi and Govind Karjol, and Karnataka Assembly Speaker Visveshwara Hegde Kageri are also being named.
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