Bangalore: The ruling BJP in Karnataka is bracing for a split as former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa will quit the party on Friday to launch his own outfit on Dec 9. The 69-year-old Yeddyurappa, credited with leading the Bharatiya Janata Party to power in the state for the first time in May 2008, is also resigning as an assembly member on Friday. The new party, Karnataka Janata Party (KJP), is scheduled to be formally launched at a public meeting in Haveri, about 400 km north of Bangalore.
The KJP was registered last year with the Election Commission by a Karnataka voter, Padmanabha Prasanna Kumar. On Nov 10, former BJP union minister V Dhananjaya Kumar, who was expelled from the party on Oct 16, took over as the KJP interim president. He will make way for Yeddyurappa on Dec 9. The KJP has urged the Election Commission to allot it a cycle or a farmer ploughing the field as its election symbol, according to Dhanajaya Kumar. Dhananjaya Kumar has said that over 40 legislators will join the new party, most of them after election dates are announced.
The BJP is putting up a brave front in the face of an imminent split though it privately acknowledges that Yeddyurappa's departure will damage its prospects of retaining power in next year's elections. In order to prevent ministers and legislators loyal to Yeddyurappa from following him, BJP state president K.S. Eshwarappa has promised ticket to all but four of the party's 119 assembly members. The Karnataka assembly is 225-member strong.
Eshwarappa, who is also one of the two deputy chief ministers, met senior leaders and heads of frontal organisations here Tuesday to draw up plans to counter the impact of Yeddyurappa's exit. Eshwarappa and Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar have been claiming that only a handful of legislators and one or two MPs will join the KJP. They also say that Yeddyurappa was committing a big mistake by starting a regional party and asserted that no regional party has ever had any impact in the state.
Yeddyurappa is peeved that BJP president Nitin Gadkari did not keep his promised to make him state BJP chief after he was forced to quit as chief ministers in July last year following mining bribery charges. Yeddyurappa is also making desperate attempts to get rid of the tag of being a Lingayat leader. His is a caste group that makes for 17 percent of the state's 65 million population. It is generally believed that the BJP captured power in the last assembly polls because of the mass backing of Lingayats. The former chief minister says his new party will be secular and that minorities would find adequate representation in it.