Karnataka BJP, race for state party president, Nalin Kumar Kateel
“I don’t have any aspirations but my term has completed. In fact, my both terms have completed,” Kateel said. File photo

A 'dark horse' likely to emerge in race for Karnataka BJP president

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Nalin Kumar Kateel, Karnataka BJP president may have dismissed reports of resigning from his position on Saturday (June 24) but the race among the aspirants for his post has only intensified by the day.

Highly-placed sources in the state BJP unit disclosed that while names of C T Ravi, Shobha Karandlaje, Dr Ashwathanarayana and Sunil Kumar are making the rounds within the party, there is a very high possibility of a ‘dark horse’ emerging in the fight between the leaders.

Sources pointedly said the state party president is likely to come from north Karnataka and will be a Lingayat. And, revealed it could be the Union minister for chemicals and fertilizers, Bhagavanth Khuba, a prominent Lingayat leader and regional satrap from the Bidar region. It is said that Khuba is very close to the central BJP leadership.

Also read: Karnataka BJP chief Nalin Kumar Kateel dismisses reports of his resignation

Daunting task of naming Leader of Opposition

Meanwhile, the BJP top brass has not finalised the canditate for another key post in the state too – the Leader of Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly. This has led to a lot of internal bickering in the state BJP unit and for caste politics to rear its head.

“The party high command may opt for a leader either from the Vokkaliga community or from Lingayat community to balance the power equation. If a Lingayat leader is chosen to lead the party in the Assembly, a Vokkaliga leader will receive the baton from Nalin Kumar Kateel,” said a senior BJP leader.

Sources said that the BJP in Karnataka are finding it difficult to find a suitable replacement for Kateel, whose tenure ended last year. Kateel continued as state president since changing him in the run up to the polls, the party believed, will not help the poll prospects.

“Though Kateel offered to resign owning moral responsibility for the party’s dismal performance in the polls, the party decided to wait for an appropriate time. This is because no leader of some calibre is ready to head the party following the defeat in the recent polls,” said the source. The party high command too decided against consulting the state leadership in crucial issues such as naming the party’s state president.

This is precisely why Kateel said on Saturday: “The party high command will take the final call on the issue.”

Also read: ‘Adjustment politics’: After poll debacle, blame game widens rift in Karnataka BJP

The BJP high command, however, cannot drag their feet and delay the issue any further to choose the leader of Opposition, as the monsoon session of the Assembly will get down to business from July 3. If the party opts for a Lingayat for the president’s post, it will inevitably chose a Vokkaliga candidate to lead the in the legislative assembly.

The Yediyurappa factor

The need of the hour for the BJP is to find a tough leader, as the Congress government is marching ahead with the implementation of guarantees and Siddaramaiah is all set to present his ‘dream’ budget. It is at this critical juncture, the party seems to be facing a serious leadership crisis, as for the first time, after the advent of BJP as a major force in state politics, the party is sorely feeling the absence of its Lingayat strongman B S Yediyurappa. The veteran politician was known for effectively taking on the government as an Opposition leader.

Yediyurappa, however, seems intent on opposing the government outside the Assembly by threatening to launch a protest outside the house to demand the implementation of the guarantee schemes promised by the Congress.

The party is also considering the names of former chief minister Basavaraj Bommai, Dr Ashwathanarayana, Sunil Kumar, Basanagauda Patil Yatnal and Aravind Bellad for leader of Opposition. Among these, three are from the prominent Lingayat community, one from Vokkaliga segment and other from backward class category.

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