The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Double trouble for BJP

New Delhi, March 10: S. Bangarappa today returned to the socialist 'parivar', dumping the BJP, which is now uneasy about its Karnataka affairs while facing rebellion in Gujarat.

'Like our leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, my political journey, too, began in 1967, on the same Socialist Party symbol of bargad (banyan) tree. Today, once again, we are together to ride the bicycle (the Samajwadi Party symbol),' the former Karnataka chief minister said after resigning his parliamentary seat won on a BJP ticket.

Bangarappa had started out as a socialist and then crossed over to the Congress, which he left for the BJP last year.

He was flanked by Mulayam Singh, general secretary Amar Singh, Jaya Prada and Jaya Bachchan.

BJP sources admitted that the Bangarappa episode was 'symptomatic' of bigger troubles ahead in Karnataka. After the party failed to muster a majority in the last Assembly polls, its internal rivalry has intensified.

Ananth Kumar, the Bangalore MP who heads the 'Mysore' faction, has been calling the shots, thanks to his reported proximity to party chief L.K. Advani and his predecessor M. Venkaiah Naidu.

Kumar handpicked Jagdish Shettar, a Lingayat, as the state BJP chief, much to the annoyance of B.S. Yediurappa and D.H. Shankaramurthy, leaders of the Opposition in the Assembly and the legislative council, both of whom are from the rival 'Shimoga' camp.

Kumar emphasised the fact that Yediurappa was also a Lingayat ' like Shettar ' and allegedly instigated the MLAs and the MLCs to replace him with a leader from another caste. The Vokkaligas and the Lingayats are the two communities that call the shots in Karnataka politics.

A memorandum, reportedly signed by 25 members of both Houses, began doing the rounds, demanding Yediurappa's removal. Advani and other leaders were supposed to meet them but the Bihar and Jharkhand upheavals came in between.

BJP sources feel the Karnataka stand-off is having an effect on Gujarat. Advani's refusal to take action against Kumar for what some see as 'anti-party' activity had emboldened the rebels to renew their campaign for chief minister Narendra Modi's ouster, the sources said.

Led by Modi's bete noire, Keshubhai Patel, four other detractors ' Kashiram Rana, Vallabhai Katheria, Rajendrasinh Rana and Suresh Mehta ' have banded together to press for a leadership change.

The matter came up at a meeting of the BJP parliamentary party this morning. Promising to 'look' into the matter, Advani advised the MPs not to take their problems to the media.

But Gujarat BJP sources said they were 'sick and tired' of Advani's assurances and threatened to take the 'battle' against Modi to its 'logical' conclusion as in 1996 when Shankersinh Vaghela organised the BJP's first major dissidence which saw the exit of Keshubhai as chief minister.

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