Bengaluru: A Karnataka BJP MLA has triggered a controversy with his statement that B.S. Yediyurappa won’t be the state’s chief minister for long now.
Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, who represents Vijayapura in north Karnataka, made the remarks at a function in Bijapur Monday. A video of his address has since gone viral.
Yatnal’s comments come amid speculation that the BJP brass is looking to replace Yediyurappa because of concerns about his age — he is 77 — and resentment about what is perceived as his unilateral way of functioning.
The MLA said Yediyurappa will soon be replaced as chief minister, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has plans to name a leader from north Karnataka as his successor.
“Yediyurappa is a CM only because of the support from MLAs of north Karnataka,” Yatnal said of the chief minister, whose constituency Shikaripura falls in central Karnataka’s Shivamogga district.
North Karnataka is a stronghold of the powerful Lingayat community, to which Yediyurappa belongs.
“Did anyone vote for the BJP in Mandya and Kolar (central Karnataka)? Though north Karnataka people elect about 100 BJP MLAs in every election, when it comes to getting power, we are forced to bow down before the leaders of other regions like Dakshina Kannada. Even the party high command has recognised this disparity. I know that PM Modi has almost finalised a name from the region for the CM post,” Yatnal is heard saying in the video.
Leaders from north Karnataka are disgruntled over not getting their due, he said, seeking to quote party colleague Umesh Katti.
Senior BJP leader Katti, he added, had recently lashed out at Yediyurappa’s alleged bias towards his own constituency.
Yatnal claimed Yediyurappa had used Rs 125 crore allotted for north Karnataka to develop his home district.
“This has led to a fight between him and me. He’s focussing only on Shivamogga. He has not given us the funds or else I could have developed our areas and concretised our roads,” he said.
Speaking to ThePrint, however, senior leaders of the BJP said there was no truth to Yatnal’s remarks, adding that action will be taken against the MLA.
‘There will be no such change’
Just before Yediyurappa’s visit to Delhi on 17 September to discuss his cabinet expansion, among other issues, with the BJP brass, political circles were abuzz with talk that the chief minister could be replaced by December.
Senior BJP leaders from north Karnataka, it is learnt, have been sending subtle hints to the high command that they are ready to back former CM Jagdish Shettar, another senior leader from the region, as Yediyurappa’s successor.
A dinner meeting held on 19 February at Shettar’s residence created quite a buzz amid speculation that a group of “dissenting MLAs” was involved. Shettar, however, dismissed the buzz as rumours.
“Yediyurappa is our leader and will remain CM,” Shettar had told ThePrint at the time.
Asked about Yatnal’s comments, a senior BJP functionary said there has been a lot of discussion among the brass about a change of guard in Karnataka, but the decision rests on Union Home Minister Amit Shah and PM Narendra Modi.
On the record, meanwhile, senior leaders maintain that no such change is likely.
“There will be no such change. Yediyurappa is our leader and we are backing him 100 per cent,” said BJP national general secretary C.T. Ravi.
Deputy Chief minister Dr C.N. Ashwath Narayan told ThePrint that “Yediyurappa is our leader and chief minister”. “There is no dispute over that. The party will take action on Yatnal’s statement,” he said.