Scam-hit B.S. Yeddyurappa, who resigned Sunday as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) first chief minister in Karnataka, insisted on Lok Sabha member D.V. Sadananda Gowda as his successor, blocking the party's efforts to evolve consensus.
"I have proposed Sadananda Gowda for the post of the new chief minister. It is for the party’s high command to decide. I hope Gowda will be acceptable to all," Yeddyurappa told reporters soon after submitting his resignation letter to state Governor H.R. Bhardwaj at Raj Bhavan amid high drama and a sudden downpour.
The 58-year-old Gowda, who represents Udupi-Chickmaglur parliamentary constituency, about 400 km from Bangalore, belongs to the powerful Vokkaliga forward community, while Yeddyurappa is from the rival Lingayat community.
Gowda, a two-term lawmaker in the state legislative assembly earlier (1994-2004), was also the ruling party’s state unit president and led the BJP to power in the state for the first time in the April-May 2008 mid-term assembly poll.
While Yeddyurappa claimed that his proposal had support of majority legislators, the party’s central observers Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh were reluctant to accept Gowda as several legislators, especially from the north Karnataka region, insisted on electing Rural Development Minister Jagadish Shettar as the new leader of the legislature party.
The 56-year-old Shettar, who represents the Hubli assembly segment, about 400 km from here, is also a Lingayat and was assembly speaker in 2008-09 and president of the party’s state unit.
“The observers are holding hectic parleys with the legislators of both factions for a consensus leader. The legislature party meeting will be called only after resolving the leadership issue so that the choice can be unanimous,” a party source privy to the brain-storming session at a star hotel in the city told IANS late Sunday.
Lawmakers opposing Gowda insist that no MP (member of Parliament) should be imposed on them and that the new leader should be elected from among the 120 legislators.
With the choice of the new leader becoming a bone of contention and taking time, Jaitley and Singh have delayed their departure to Delhi.
Earlier, Yeddyurappa went on foot (padayatra) from his official residence on Race Course Road to Raj Bhavan, about a km away, to tender his resignation. A procession of hundreds of supporters, including a dozen cabinet ministers and scores of legislators, walked along with him as a show of strength.
Yeddyurappa, who served as chief minister for 38 months, was directed to step down by the party’s parliamentary board Thursday a day after (July 27) he was indicted by Karnataka Lokayukta (ombudsman) Justice (retd) N. Santosh Hegde under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, for his criminal involvement in the multi-crore mining scam in the state.
Though a sulking Yeddyurappa agreed to demit office July 28, he sought two more days' time as he didn’t want to resign during the inauspicious Ashada masa (month), which started July 2 and ended July 30 as per the Hindu calendar.
Awaiting the D-day, a defiant Yeddyurappa worked overtime to rally as many ministers and legislators behind him to first continue as chief minister and set three conditions - right to choose his successor, have a major say in the formation of the new cabinet and make him president of the party’s state unit.
When the party high command and observers insisted that he resign first unconditionally and resolve the other issues in consultation with other leaders at the state level, a dejected Yeddyurappa gave in and assured the leadership that he would indeed quit Sunday.