For the second consecutive day, seers and heads of several mutts across Karnataka and a few from outside the state too met Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, expressing their support for him. These visits come after Congress leaders from the Lingayat community warned the BJP not to insult Yediyurappa by removing him as CM. The support of the community leaders and Yediyurappaâ€™s show of strength is a result of the 47-second audio tape, purportedly that of BJP Karnataka president Nalin Kumar Kateel, saying that Yediyurappa will be removed.
While Kateel has denied that it was his voice in the audio clip and has asked for an inquiry into the same, it has caused enough damage, with the BJP high command even reprimanding Kateel, according to sources. But not leaving much to chance, Yediyurappa has decided to send a strong message to his detractors both within the state and outside that his exit will have to be on his terms, if the party has to be left unscathed. The meetings also are to send a message to the Lingayat community and its leaders that he still enjoys the support of the majority. Statements of a few seers in the past one year, along with the onslaught from his political opponents, had raised the question of whether Yediyurappa is still the undisputed leader of the community.
Sources tell TNM that the high command realises the importance of a smooth exit for Yediyurappa even as they are not encouraging any arm-twisting tactics. For the Assembly elections in Karnataka, Yediyurappaâ€™s support, campaigning and message that he is still with the party will be crucial if the BJP hopes to continue to be in power. To make way for this, one option being discussed is that of a Cabinet reshuffle with Yediyurappa at the helm but with a new team groomed to take over after his exit. This could exclude senior ministers like R Ashoka, Eshwarappa and Jagadish Shettar.
Meanwhile, Yediyurappa has reportedly not shown any interest in being appointed as a Governor and has insisted that if he has to step down then he would rather stay in Karnataka and help build the party further. The scenario of Yediyurappaâ€™s continued presence and influence in the state has made his detractors, including BJP National General Secretary BL Santhosh, uncomfortable, a source indicated.
But in the meantime, Yediyurappa, with meetings with religious and political leaders from the community, is sending a message that he will not be easy to remove, and if not done delicately, the party will suffer in the only state in the south where it has been in power.