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Yeddy show of unity

Bangalore, Feb. 23: Karnataka chief minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda made a surprise visit to B.S. Yeddyurappa’s home today in an apparent attempt to present a united front of the ruling BJP.

Gowda, who showed up with state party president K.S. Easwarappa, made a quick exit after interacting with Yeddyurappa even as MLAs trooped in to attend the show of strength organised by the former chief minister who is trying to make a comeback.

Of the 119 party MLAs, more than 60 attended the meeting. Most of them were old-time loyalists of the strongman who was forced to quit as chief minister when slapped with corruption charges in July 2011.

Sources said the chief minister requested Yeddyurappa to tone down his protests and protect the party’s unity. Gowda later issued a brief statement saying: “I have the party’s support to continue till the next state assembly elections (coming up by May 2013).”

State BJP chief Easwarappa too left in a hurry, but only after getting himself clicked while shaking hands with Yeddyurappa and panchayati raj minister Jagadish Shettar.

But he denied any rift in the party while speaking to reports at the BJP’s state headquarters. “The meeting was mainly to discuss political issues like the upcoming by-poll and does not indicate any rebellion,” he said.

The Race Course Road residence of Yeddyurappa was turned into a mini fortress with armed police laying a security blanket to enable the closed-door meeting. He did not speak to the media.

A highlight of today’s luncheon meeting was the closing of ranks by old foes Yeddyurappa and panchayati raj minister Jagadish Shettar. The minister was earlier part of the group led by the state party chief and Lok Sabha MP Ananth Kumar that protested the “dictatorial ways” of Yeddyurappa.

For long seen as a chief ministerial candidate but sidelined by Yeddyurappa, Shettar lost the race when Gowda was picked as the chief minister in August 2011.

Hardcore Yeddyurappa loyalists who participated in the meeting said they would not settle for anything less than making their leader the chief minister.

Excise minister M.P. Renukacharya and legislator B.P. Harish were among the most vocal Yeddyurappa supporters. They said the group would meet national BJP president Nitin Gadkari and apprise him about the chief minister’s conduct.

Gadkari was scheduled to arrive in the city late tonight to attend party’s brainstorming session “Chintan Mantan Baitak” here tomorrow.

The chief minister who belongs to the Vokkaliga community, has never attempted to hide his closeness to former chief minister H.D. Deve Gowda, his son and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and the Union external affairs minister SM Krishna all from the same caste.

Yeddyurappa is a Lingayat the other major community in the state.

After being forced to resign when faced with corruption charges, Yeddyurappa said he would be back in six months. But after he returned from a 24-day judicial remand, Yeddyurappa found that Gowda had other plans.

The new chief minister had quickly consolidated his position with the party’s backing and was even hailed as an “honest” administrator.

Among those who ignored the meeting call today, Mysore MLA Shankarlinge Gowda blasted Yeddyurappa for trying to create fissures in the party. “Yeddyurappa is mentally unstable. He has lost his senses,” said the legislator who added such “anti-party activities” must not go unpunished.

C.T. Ravi, MLA from Chikmagalur, said the party “must protect the chief minister who has been doing some good work.” He said Gadkari would be briefed about the developments during tomorrow’s meeting.

BJP sources in Delhi said the leadership did not wish to upset the Bangalore applecart.

“It is not as though the court has served an unequivocal clean chit to Yeddyurappa (in the land deal cases). He has only got a bail. If he is restored as the CM and faces a new legal tangle, what are we to do? Ask him to step down again and lose face?” a source said.

Gadkari was expected to do the “balancing act”.

“In the past whenever Yeddyurappa called on him, Gadkari always gave an impression that the last word has not been spoken on leadership change. He will repeat that line and request the former CM to keep working for the party and strengthen the government, a source said. Karnataka goes to polls in May 2013.

The BJP's biggest concern was if "pushed to the wall", the mercurial Yeddyurappa could quit the party and branch out on his own.