Bangalore, Sept. 19: Former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa today expressed his fledgling party’s support to Narendra Modi’s prime ministerial ambitions but ruled out a merger with the BJP.
Sources in his Karnataka Janata Party (KJP), though, suggested that back-channel efforts were on for such a merger.
At a KJP state executive meeting here today, the former BJP strongman said his new party would support Modi’s bid to become Prime Minister — a statement that will not surprise too many people considering the rapport the two leaders have.
“Never did I speak of any merger with the BJP. However, the KJP is ready to be part of the NDA with the aim of bringing Modi to power as Prime Minister,” Yeddyurappa said.
“Never,” he said, replying to a reporter’s question on the possibility of a merger at a later stage.
“You see, the KJP did very well in many Assembly constituencies in the May elections. We have since strengthened our roots and widened our voter base in preparation for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.”
Credited with bringing the BJP to power in Karnataka and making the state the party’s gateway to the south, Yeddyurappa was forced out of his chief minister’s post over corruption allegations. After initial resistance, he yielded to pressure and resigned in 2011, and left the party last year.
Today, he told the KJP state executive, attended by representatives from across the state, that the party was “ready even to go it alone if it comes to that”.
Yeddyurappa and Modi are mutual admirers who have often praised each other in public.
When Modi campaigned in Karnataka in the run-up to the Assembly polls, he did not once criticise Yeddyurappa although the former chief minister was playing spoiler for the BJP’s chances.
Rather, at a Bangalore rally, Modi mentioned Yeddyurappa’s name while listing the “good work” done by successive BJP chief ministers.
Today’s KJP meeting came at a time Yeddyurappa aide Lehar Singh was talking to the BJP’s top leadership in Delhi. Party sources said Singh carried the brief of discussing a possible merger even though Yeddyurappa was dismissing any such option in public.
Most state BJP leaders, who had earlier opposed Yeddyurappa, have of late been speaking of the “vitality” that his presence would bring to the party, which was battered in the May Assembly polls even in its traditional strongholds in the southern districts.
Even state president K.S. Eshwarappa, an arch-rival of Yeddyurappa, appears to have changed his stance on a possible return by the Lingayat strongman who still wields influence in the community.
In the state polls, the BJP lost at least 30 seats because the KJP cut into its votes, and eventually finished second to the Congress.
Although things will be different in the Lok Sabha elections, the KJP is expected to gnaw away at the BJP’s votes again, especially in the Lingayat heartland in the northern districts.