A trip to Delhi today by Karnataka Chief Minister, BS Yediyurappa, coinciding with the two-year anniversary of his fourth term, has revived speculation that it will involve discussions on a change of leadership in the state – an issue that has increasingly dogged the 78-year-old for months.
Mr Yediyurappa boarded a special flight with his son Vijayendra landed in Delhi at around 3:30 pm before meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi this evening for a little over 30 minutes. Before that, he attended a virtual meeting led by the PM with Chief Ministers of southern states to discuss the COVID-19 situation.
Laughing off talk of a leadership change in Karnataka when asked by reporters after the meeting, he said, “I don’t know of any rumour about leadership change. You tell me.” He added that he would be returning to Bengaluru tomorrow.
Mr Yediyurappa’s visit came amid growing notes of discord in the Karnataka BJP with several leaders openly challenging the Chief Minister and facing little admonishment from the top leadership. Mr Yediyurappa’s last trip to Delhi was in January when he met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP chief JP Nadda.
Recently, the BJP’s state in-charge, Arun Singh, had visited the state and met the ruling party’s MLAs. He had reiterated that the Chief Minister had the backing of the party leadership and said that Mr Yediyurappa and his government had been doing good work.
But the speculation, fanned by public rumblings against the Chief Minister by BJP MLAs and alleged interference by his son Vijayendra, is not dying down.
Defying warnings of disciplinary action by the leadership, disgruntled BJP leaders like Vijayapura City MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, Tourism Minister CP Yogeshwar and legislative council member AH Vishwanath have mounted scathing attacks on Mr Yediyurappa, embarrassing the party and his government.
Swatting away the buzz surrounding the Delhi visit, Revenue Minister R Ashok said, “Normal process. Nothing is there. There is no leadership change in Karnataka. Yediyurappa will continue. He is visiting Delhi to meet the Prime Minister, Home Minister and party president and other central ministers especially Irrigation Minister. The Cauvery river issue is the major issue. That is why he is visiting Delhi.”
Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have been in conflict over a planned irrigation project by Karnataka in the Cauvery river at Mekedatu.
Though Mr Ashok denied any plans of a cabinet reshuffle in the near future – and said the Chief Minister himself had said so – sources in the BJP claimed that such discussions were not off the table during this visit.
Besides the Prime Minister, Mr Yediyurappa is likely to meet Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah tomorrow.
Commenting on the dissent against him last month, Mr Yediyurappa had said, “There is no political crisis at all…what is happening is just because one or two people (legislators) are saying something in the media, it is creating misunderstanding…these one or two people speaking against me is not new, they have been doing it since the beginning and it is getting highlighted.”
But he had also said that he will continue as Chief Minister only as long as the BJP central leadership has confidence in him. “The day they tell me to quit, I will. Then, I will involve myself in working for the welfare of the state.”