The factional fight in Karnataka's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Sunday plunged to a new low with former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa calling his successor D.V. Sadananda Gowda a "traitor" and comparing him to "the devil quoting the scripture".
Yeddyurappa, whose come back bid has been stymied with the Supreme Court ordering a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into corruption charges against him, also praised Congress president Sonia Gandhi and slammed his own party leadership.
"Congress president Sonia Gandhi has a great quality. She defends her party leaders if allegations are levelled against them. But our party not only does not defend but does everything to use such developments to browbeat people," he said at a public function here.
Taking on Gowda directly for the first time, Yedyurappa said "a traitor who did not keep his promise is giving sermons. It is like the devil quoting the scriptures," he added.
Gowda had taken a dig at Yeddyurappa, without naming him at a function here Saturday. "In the past, people came to power to do good for the people. But these days, people in power do many wrong things but offer donations and gifts to God thinking that they will be forgiven," he said.
His reference was to Yeddyurappa, a staunch believer who very frequently visits temples and religious leaders, particularly those belonging to his Lingayat community.
Yeddyurappa, BJP's first chief minister in Karnataka, was forced to quit on mining bribery charges July 31 last year.
He had handpicked Gowda to be his successor. Gowda took over Aug 4. But the two have fallen out as Yeddyurappa claims that Gowda had gone back on his promise to vacate the seat for him after six months.
The two have been taking digs at each for several weeks now but Sunday was the first time that Yeddyurappa launched a direct attack on Gowda.
The attack on Gowda and BJP national leaders and praise for Sonia Gandhi is seen in political circles here as part of the pressure games that Yeddyurappa has launched to prevent his marginalization in the party following the apex court order on the CBI probe.
As part of the muscle-flexing on Saturday, he secured the resignation of at least seven ministers loyal to him and is hoping more ministers and legislators will hand over such letters to him to use them as a bargaining chip with the party's national leaders.
"Several ministers have given their resignations to me. They are angry with the chief minister because he has accused them of anti-party activity. I will take a decision on their resignation at an appropriate time," Yeddyurappa told reporters here Sunday.
Gowda will be in New Delhi later Sunday ostensibly to attend the function to mark the 60th anniversary of the first session of Parliament.
He is expected to meet party leaders and urge them to take a firm decision on reining in Yeddyurappa and his supporters.