Monday, Oct 03, 2022

Leadership Change On Cards In Karnataka? Speculation Rife Ahead Of Amit Shah's Visit

CM Bommai is under pressure to expand or rejig his Cabinet. The government is also facing corruption allegations and backlash over communal flare-ups.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah PTI

Union Home Minister Amit Shah will visit Karnataka on Tuesday amid buzz over a possible change in leadership as Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai is under pressure to expand or rejig his Cabinet.

Shah had last visted Karnataka on April 1 to attend a state BJP core committee meeting. He had then set a target of 150 seats for the party in 2023 assembly elections. He had also held discussions on the induction of leaders from other political parties ahead of elections and strengthening the party organisation.

Though largely seen as an official visit, with less than a year for elections, Shah during this visit is likely to meet senior party leaders including CM Bommai, veteran leader B S Yediyurappa among others, and assess the preparations by the party for the polls. The leaders are likely to meet over a lunch, as per reports.

Yediyurappa told reporters in Shivamogga, "He [Shah] is coming, I will be meeting him. He will try to know about the political situation in the state. As state elections are ahead, Prime Minister and Amit Shah have decided to give priority to Karnataka. He is likely to give suggestions on reaching the 150 seats target that we have set for the next assembly polls."

However, there is no mention of any meeting with party leaders in his schedule that's available.

Shah will landing in Bengaluru late tonight. He is scheduled to take part in several events, including valedictory function of "Khelo India" University Games in Bengaluru tomorrow. He will also be paying tributes to 12th-century social reformer and Lingayat saint Basavanna on the occasion Basava Jayanthi.

Lingayats are a dominant community who have significant presence across the state and are considered as the strong vote bank of the BJP.

Other events he is scheduled to attend are inauguration and foundation stone-laying of various projects including Nrupathunga University, e-inauguration of Forensic Science Laboratory in Bellari, inauguration of Bengaluru NATGRID Campus, among others.

Bommai, who is under pressure to expand or rejig his cabinet at the earliest, ahead of the next year's assembly elections, has already indicated that he would try to discuss it with Shah during this visit. 

With the Cabinet exercise taking time, voices of discontent seem to be brewing within the ruling BJP, as party MLA M P Renukacharya recently had openly expressed displeasure about the delay and working of few ministers.

The MLA, who is also the CM's political secretary, said several party legislators are of a similar opinion and they feel that if new faces are inducted into the Cabinet, they would work aggressively and bring a good name to the BJP and the government ahead of the 2023 assembly polls.

There are currently five positions vacant in the state cabinet, which has 29 ministers including the chief minister, against the sanctioned strength of 34.

Some legislators have even been advocating a Gujarat-like overhaul of the Karnataka Cabinet soon, to make way for new faces, ahead of the Assembly elections.

The cabinet exercise will be crucial ahead of the assembly elections, in which the saffron party aims to return to power once again, and has set a target of winning a minimum of 150 seats in the 225-member House.

The visit also comes  amid a fresh round of speculation about leadership change in the state.

BJP national general secretary B L Santhosh's statement on Sunday that the party's strength lies in the induction of new faces has set off this fresh round of speculation over leadership change in the state.

However, a senior BJP functionary said the party was unlikely to replace Bommai, who replaced veteran leader Yediyurappa as chief minister in July last year, and too much is being read into Santosh's statement.

Yediyurappa too on Monday had dismissed such speculations, saying Bommai was doing a "good job".

There have also been rumors for some time now that the state BJP President Nalin Kumar Kateel, an MP might be replaced.  

The visit of Shah comes after the state witnessed a series of incidents of communal flare ups, 40 per cent commission allegation against the government, resignation of senior Minister K S Eshwarappa following the alleged suicide of a contractor naming him, and alleged scam in the recruitment of police sub-inspectors among others.

With Opposition parties cornering his government on all these issues, Bommai had recently said that the BJP will reach out to the people for assembly elections with positive politics and its report card on positive governance.

This was after BJP central leadership asking leaders of its Karnataka unit and ministers to bring the developmental agenda to the fore and showcase the achievements of the government in view of the polls amid flare-up in communal issues in the state.

(With PTI inputs)