Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa today met the heads of several mutts in Bengaluru, strengthening his ties with the powerful priests of the state in what is seen as a message to the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The meeting comes amid speculation that he would be removed from the Chief Minister’s post by the end of this month
The political and religious leaders of the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community — which comprises 16 per cent of the state’s population and is seen the BJP’s big support base in the state — are backing the Chief Minister. Several of them have warned the BJP against any move to dislodge the 78-year-old, who also belongs to the community.
Veera Someshwara Shivacharya Swami said any move to replace Mr Yediyurappa will have “big consequences” for the BJP.
“Friction is common in politics, let anyone say anything, but we have confidence that B S Yediyurappa will continue as the Chief Minister and complete the term. If there are any shortcomings in this, it will have big consequences for the party,” he was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.
Congress leader and the head of the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha, Shamanur Shivashankarappa, said the community is behind the Chief Minister.
“They (BJP leadership) should remember history — S Nijalingappa, Veerendra Patil, J H Patel and S R Bommai (all former Chief Ministers). They will destroy themselves if they attempt such a thing,” PTI quoted Mr Shivashankarappa as saying.
The Chief Minister’s meeting came a day after an audio clip purportedly of the state BJP chief talking of a change in guard was widely circulated.
The 47-second clip has a man telling someone: “Don’t tell anyone. Without Eshwarappa, Jagdish Shettar there will be a new team. Don’t worry, it is on our hands. There are three names, it comes from Delhi.”
State BJP chief Nalinkumar Kateel called it fake, called for an investigations and denied any possibility of a change in leadership.
Mr Yediyurappa, who met top BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi earlier this month, has brushed away the possibility of his removal.
Some Karnataka BJP MLAs have been vocal in their criticism of Mr Yediyurappa and his son Vijayendra. But the party has done little to silence the critics, raising speculation about which side it is on.