Ashwath Narayan and Shobha Karandlaje
Ashwath Narayan and Shobha Karandlaje are in the running to become the next Karnataka BJP president as the party is keen to pick a Vokkaliga face ahead of the Assembly elections. Images: Twitter

Amid Karnataka BJP leadership crisis, RSS scans Vokkaliga candidates

As CM Bommai is a Lingayat, it is expected that the BJP-RSS will opt for a Vokkaliga leader to head its state unit to appease that community

As the Karnataka BJP unit is faced with multiple problems, the RSS has stepped in, and is holding talks with state party leaders. The issues are aplenty — such indiscipline among leaders in dealing with issues such as the leadership crisis, and Panchamasali demands which are affecting the party’s prospects ahead of the Assembly elections.

Also, the BJP and Sangh Parivar are said to have found that the state party unit chief Nalin Kumar Kateel is helpless in dealing with the issues, and needs to be replaced.

The leaders in the running to take over as the new Karnataka BJP president are from the Vokkaliga community, and most probably CN Ashwath Narayan, who is the minister for higher education, electronics, IT & BT, science & technology in the Basavaraj Bommai Cabinet. Union Minister Shobha Karandlaje is another likely choice.

Also read: Modi’s ‘pep talk’ to BSY draws attention as BJP faces crisis in Karnataka

BL Santosh, BJP National General Secretary (from RSS), and Manohar Vaidya, the Sah Sar Karyavah (joint secretary) of the RSS, have camped in Bengaluru to try and find solutions.  The RSS is not taking the issues lightly. Kateel is found wanting, and party leaders including Murugesh Nirani and Basanagouda Patil Yatnal are issuing public statements against each other. Even the state BJP in-charge Arun Singh’s earlier warnings have been ignored.

Replacement for Kateel 

There have been calls for replacing Kateel for over five months now. Party workers have been demanding it since the murder of Karnataka BJP youth leader Praveen Nettaru on July 26, 2022.

According to party’s sources, the party is now keen on appointing a new state  chief soon and he/she will be from the Vokkaliga community. As Bommai is from the Lingayat community, the state unit chief will be a Vokkaliga leader to appease the community in the old Mysuru region, sources added.

There are three prominent leaders in the Karnataka BJP from the Vokkaliga community – Shobha Karandlaje, National General Secretary CT Ravi, and Narayan. Another top Vokkaliga leader and minister R Ashok doesn’t hold statewide appeal and his name is ruled out for the post, a party leader said.

Also read: Karnataka Lingayat BJP MLAs complain about Bommai in letter to Modi

Sources said that Ashwath Narayan’s chances of becoming Karnataka BJP’s president are high. The party is planning to project a strong Vokkaliga leader as the community is second-most prominent after the Lingayats in the state. The party, which is considered as “mainly backed by Lingayats” is now wanting to change it by wooing the Vokkaligas too.

Fresh chance for Ashwath Narayan

It is a known fact that the party had tasked Ashwath Narayan with the responsibility of organising Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Vokkaliga rally at Bangalore international airport to unveil the 108-foot-high statue of Bengaluru founder Kempe Gowda in November last year. He was criticised by his own party for not handling certain issues with the event including sending an invite to former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda. However, according to a master plan chalked out by Union Home Minister Amith Shah, Narayan will be given a chance as the state president to mainly focus on the Old Musuru region.

At the same time, Narayan has been the in-charge minister of the Ramnagar district and the party wants him to tackle both Ramangara and Kanakapura districts as the Karnataka Congress president and chief minister post aspirant DK Shivakumar and former chief minister and JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy wield more political power from the same region.

Also read: Karnataka polls: BJP will win 106 seats, says CM Bommai

According to sources, the upcoming Assembly elections in Karnataka will be a fight between the three Vokkaliga leaders (Narayan, Shivakumar, Kumaraswamy), which will help BJP make a formal base for the future. According to the saffron party’s strategies, it will either divide a chunk of Vokkaliga votes from the JD(S) and Congress and create a new base for the BJP or push the Vokkaliga votes towards JD(S) to defeat the Congress. The second plan suits more for the BJP, to defeat the Congress and take help from the JD(S), if necessary, to form the government after election results, a senior leader told The Federal.

Ravi, the firebrand leader, who is also in the reckoning, may lose out due to his limitations in handling the old Mysuru region. However, Shobha is still not ruled out.

Panchamasali issue

The RSS leaders and the party’s state leaders have held discussions over the Panchamasali issue too. They have discussed the letter written by over 20 Lingayat MLAs to PM Modi’s office expressing their dissent over Bommai in handling the Panchamasali issue. The indirect “threat” of looking at other political options if the issue was not resolved had made the state party leaders have a re-look at their planning, sources added.

Also read: Yediyurappa-like strong Lingayat leader eludes BJP in Karnataka

However, the RSS leaders held a marathon meeting with the Panchamasali leaders to resolve the issue. Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, the BJP leader who is leading the protesters has been asked to go to Delhi to meet Amith Shah to talk about the issue.

The letter details the failure of the Bommai’s administration in getting 2A reservation to the Panchamasalis. Though the CM had assured them to give them 2A status and restructure the 2C and 2D categories in a cabinet meeting, he could not achieve it because of legal issues. It was a false promise, the letter states.

The RSS leaders are said to have also discussed the silence of the former chief minister BS Yediyurappa and how to involve him in the runup to the Assembly elections, and also tackling the administration failures of CM Bommai, which has impacted the party negatively.

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