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Yeddy launches party, BJP 32 in audience

Haveri, Dec. 9: B.S. Yeddyurappa today formally launched his Karnataka Janata Party in the northern town of Haveri, with more than 30 BJP leaders in attendance.

A rally at the GH College grounds in Haveri, 350km north of Bangalore, was attended by around a lakh people bussed in from across the state.

In the morning, several BJP legislators and MPs defied the party’s warning and attended a breakfast meeting hosted by the Lingayat strongman.

The 21 MLAs, seven MLCs and four Lok Sabha MPs from the BJP added up to just over half the support the former Karnataka chief minister had claimed. He had boasted of the support of around 60.

But even attracting 21 of the 119 BJP MLAs to Haveri, the cardamom-processing town chosen for the launch because it is a hub of the dominant Lingayat community to which Yeddyurappa belongs, is seen as a sign of things to come.

At least 13 of them were later seen on the stage where Yeddyurappa unleashed a tirade against the BJP and challenged party bosses to take action against his old friends.

Minister for public works C.M. Udasi, water resources minister Basavaraj Bommai and energy minister Shobha Karandlaje sat in the audience, away from the media glare.

Yeddyurappa, who led the BJP to its first government in the south and was forced out in June last year after being indicted in a Lokayukta report on illegal mining, told the gathering that acting against the legislators who attended the meeting could lead to the collapse of the government, which has four months to go before elections.

“But if they want to face the people, let them sack my friends. Or else, let them treat this as a coalition government, in which case we’ll allow it to last its full term,” he added.

If the BJP acts against the 21 MLAs, the Jagadish Shettar government will lose majority. “We are ready to face the people. So that’s not our problem,” said Yeddyurappa, who seeks to rebuild his political career at 70.

With the formal exit of Yeddyurappa, the BJP is down to 119, including the Speaker, in the House of 224 elected members. This essentially means that the ruling party needs to have at least 113 members to stay afloat.

In Bangalore, the chairperson of the state BJP disciplinary action committee Raghunath Malkapure said the party was contemplating action against all the BJP legislators who attended today’s show.

The BJP has already sacked state co-operative minister B.J. Puttaswamy and suspended party Lok Sabha MP from Tumkur G.S. Basavaraj for anti-party activities.

Yeddyurappa, whose repeated attempts to take back the reins were shot down by the party, quit the BJP on November 30. By then the Karnataka Janata Party had been floated, with former Union minister Dhananjay Kumar its interim head. Yeddyurappa took charge today.

The state’s newest regional party was not without its share of glamour with popular Kannada actor Pooja Gandhi joining it. She had ended her brief association with the Janata Dal (Secular) few days ago.

Trade unionist Michael Fernandes was among the many local leaders representing various communities who joined the party.