Karnataka stares at summer of BJP power struggle

The power struggle in Karnataka's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sharpened Thursday, threatening to reduce D.V. Sadananda Gowda to a lame-duck chief minister.

The threat to the Gowda government is from his predecessor, B.S. Yeddyurappa, who was forced out of office last July over corruption charges.

Yeddyurappa was hoping to come back as chief minister within six months but with BJP central leaders firmly ruling out his return till he was cleared of corruption charges, he has been angling to be officially declared the unquestioned leader of the party in the state.

On Thursday, a day ahead of BJP president Nitin Gadkari's visit to the state, Yeddyurappa hosted a lunch in Bangalore for party legislators hoping to demonstrate his hold on the organization.

Around 80 of the 120 party members in the assembly, several legislative council and parliament members attended the luncheon.

Gadkari is to participate in the two-day 'chintan-manthan' or brainstorming session of state party leaders and legislators.

The meeting has been called in the wake of the involvement of three ministers - Laxman Savadi, C. C. Patil and J. Krishna Palemar - in viewing porn in the assembly Feb 7. The three quit the next day.

However, the incident has dealt a severe blow to BJP, which often claims to be only party with high moral values. Many of the groups supporting it indulge in moral policing.

State BJP chief K.S. Eshwarappa, who also attended the luncheon meeting, told reporters that Gadkari's visit will resolve the "minor problems" plaguing the party.
Though Yeddyurappa handpicked Gowda to succeed him, he has turned against him on the ground that the successor is acting independently to emerge out of his shadow.

Gowda is also being targetted by Yeddyurappa and his supporters for allegedly getting cozy with former Prime Minister and Janata Dal-Secular president H.D. Deve Gowda.

The power struggle has taken a casteist angle too as the two Gowdas belong to Vokkaliga caste while Yeddyurappa hails from Lingayat caste. The two caste groups are rivals for political power and have been dominating the state politics for a long time.

The state is scheduled for assembly elections in April-May next year. The BJP came to power for the first time in Karnataka in May 2008.

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