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Yeddy gone, jockeying arrives

Bangalore, Aug. 1: Rival BJP groups in Karnataka today herded their supporters into hotels to prevent them from being poached as hectic lobbying began to decide who would succeed B.S. Yeddyurappa as emerging signs indicated an erosion of support for the former chief minister.

Legislators still backing Yeddyurappa and those supporting his rivals, led by national general secretary Ananth Kumar, began hectic lobbying early today to add numbers before they meet on Wednesday to elect a new chief minister. While Yeddyurappa stuck to his demand that loyalist and Lok Sabha member D.V. Sadananda Gowda be picked as his successor, the rival camp is pitching for rural development minister Jagadish Shettar.

While the Yeddyurappa camp had more than 70 MLAs until he quit yesterday, just about 35 of them were seen with him today.

Some of the 11 MLAs who had rebelled against Yeddyurappa last year but returned to his group recently have met arch-rival Kumar, the BJP’s national general secretary, at a five-star hotel.

The two groups were holed up in hotels some 15km apart, apparently trying to build numbers by luring fence-sitters. While there is a possibility of the next BJP government going for two deputy chief ministers one from each group to avoid further conflict the fight for the chief minister’s post has just got more intense.

Loyalists of Yeddyurappa who were housed at Chancery Pavilion, a holiday resort located on the outskirts of the city, stayed put, making sure their movements do not trigger speculation about shifting loyalties.

But the Reddy brothers whom the Lokayukta report accused of amassing wealth through illegal mining got active with just a day to decide on a new chief minister.

In what could be a sign of swinging loyalties, Janardhan Reddy had a lengthy meeting with Kumar at Hotel Lalit Ashok, just a stone’s throw from the chief minister’s official residence. Accompanied by a handful of legislators, the mining baron could tip the scales with his money and muscle power. Neither leader was available for comment.

Giving ample indications that it would not be an easy ride ahead, Shettar made his intentions clear by declaring that he was indeed in the race for the top job. Citing support from party MLAs, Shettar said told reporters: “I am in the race for the job.”

A member of the powerful Lingayat community, of which Yeddyurappa was hitherto the most influential leader, Shettar today spent time talking to seers of various mutts (ashrams) to garner support. He also sought the religious heads’ help in getting Yeddyurappa to wind down and allow him to be the next chief minister.

State party president K.S. Easwarappa too stood his ground saying he had no plans of vacating the post for Yeddyurappa to honour the latter’s demand that he be allowed to head the party.

“I have always said I have a three-year term as president and I have a year and a half left to complete that,” he said, reflecting the mood in the anti-Yeddyurappa group, of which he is a leader.

On the resurgence of “resort politics” a euphemism for herding MLAs into hotels for the fear of poaching Easwarappa said there was nothing wrong with it. “It was the Congress party that forced us to get into this when they tried to poach our MLAs (before the BJP came to power in 2008).”

While Yeddyurappa supporters continued to play up his achievements by claming he was the country’s first chief minister to stop export of iron ore irregularities in which landed him in trouble with the Lokayukta that accused him of accepting kickbacks the Opposition Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) were persistent with their demand to dissolve the Assembly and opt for fresh elections.

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