Ever since the 2018 election results in Karnataka, there has been a gradual shift in the power structure in the state BJP unit with the dominance of the B S Yediyurappa (now a former chief minister) faction on the wane as the party's national general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh faction assumes prominence.
Santhosh, according to the party insiders, has been asserting his dominance in almost all affairs of the state unit ranging from posting office staff at Jagannath Bhavan to the selection of candidates for key elections held since 2019.
All these developments have cemented Santhosh's position as the key man ahead of the 2023 Legislative Assembly polls.
"The sign of a shift in power centres within the state unit was apparent ever since the new BJP state president Nalin Kumar Kateel was appointed back in 2019. After that, most of the decisions taken by the party high command has Santosh's influence writ large," a senior party functionary said.
Santhosh was the general secretary (organisation) of the BJP state unit for eight years before being elevated to the national role in July 2019.
Since then, he appears to have had a say in picking candidates for almost all elections - save the bypolls where MLAs who defected from the Congress-JD(S) coalition - were in contention.
Boost for karyakartas
A former MLA, under the condition of anonymity, noted that Santhosh had picked little-known party workers Eranna Kadadi and the late Ashok Gasti as Rajya Sabha candidates - which provided a boost for the karyakartas.
"That had come at a time when (Food and Civil Supplies minister) Umesh Katti was unhappy about not being inducted to the Yediyurappa Cabinet and was adamant that his brother Ramesh Katti be made a Rajya Sabha MP," he said.
Santhosh clearly has had a say in the recent nomination of MLCs and also candidates for Rajya Sabha polls - which will be announced soon, the BJP leader said.
'Lacks mass appeal'
Muzaffar Assadi, political commentator and chairman of the Political Science Department, University of Mysore, said that Santhosh's status in the state unit has been growing over the past few years, recalling that his name had done the rounds as a chief ministerial candidate too, ahead of 2018 polls.
"Santhosh is a strong organisational figure but lacks the mass appeal of Yediyurappa," he said.
However, Yediyurappa is being sidelined and the party appears to be sending a message that he is a spent force, Assadi said.
It will be interesting to see whether Santhosh or Yediyurappa has a final say in picking candidates for the 2023 Assembly polls. "Santhosh's preference for picking party karyakartas to contest elections could backfire too," he added.