Bangalore/New Delhi, July 28: Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa today agreed to step down hours after the party leadership asked him to quit immediately, a day after his severe indictment by Lokayukta in the illegal mining scam.
Sources close to the Chief Minister said 68-year-old Yeddyurappa, heading the BJP's first government in the South since May 2008, will officially tender his resignation to Governor H R Bharadwaj on July 31.
The sources said the Chief Minister has agreed to abide by the decision taken by the BJP Central Parliamentary Board this morning. Yeddyurappa's decision to quit is believed to have been conveyed to party president Nitin Gadkari.
The tactic of Yeddyurappa apparently to buy some time before tendering his resignation to the Governor fuelled speculation he wants to have a say on the choice of his successor, the new ministry and key party issues before finally yielding to BJP Parliamentary Board's diktat. Astrological reasons were also being cited for the chief minister to formally put in his papers only on July 31.
After a 70-minute meeting in Delhi presided by Gadkari, the Parliamentary Board unanimously decided there has to be a change in the leadership of the BJP legislature party in Karnataka.
Accordingly, BJP spokesman Ravishankar Prasad said the Board has “advised” Yeddyurappa, a popular Lingayat leader, to tender his resignation “immediately” bringing to an end the uncertainty over his fate after his indictment.
The Board, the party's highest decision making body, also decided to send senior leaders Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley as observers to Bangalore tomorrow to oversee the election of the new leader of the BJP legislature party.
The names doing the rounds are State BJP president KS Eshwarappa, Lok Sabha MP Sadanand Gowda, Higher Education Minister V S Acharya, Law and Justice Minister Suresh Kumar S, party national general secretary and MP Ananth Kumar, Rural Development minister Jagadish Shettar, a Lingayat leader and Yeddyurappa's close associate and minister Shoba Karandlaje.
After the BJP top brass decision to replace him, an embattled Yeddyurappa kept them on the tenterhooks since he continued to hold consultations with his ministerial colleagues and MLAs loyal to him on his options.
Senior party leaders said while the Parliamentary Board was unanimous in its decision that Yeddyurappa's continuance in office had become untenable as it was denting BJP's fight against corruption, the party would not like to unruffle him further by selecting a leader without seeking his consent.
A dark horse, acceptable to all and one who would not become too ambitious and difficult to handle, may also be considered by both the Central leadership and Yeddyurappa.
According to a senior party functionary, Yeddyurappa also wants to be the President of the state unit once he steps down and also have a major say in ministry formation Yeddyurappa, who kept himself out of bounds for the media, cancelled a cabinet meeting scheduled for the afternoon to consider the Lokayukta report which has pushed the first ever BJP Government in the south to its worst ever crisis.
He showed no signs of immediate compliance with the party directive after returning from New Delhi, but senior Minister and his close aide V S Acharya said it was only a question of time before he quits.
“It's a matter of time... Ours is a party where breach of discipline is not committed”, Acharya said.
Shettar, who is from the Lingayat community, said the party was discussing three-four names as a possible successor and claiemd his name was also being discussed.
Yeddyurappa, widely credited with leading the party to power in the state, held day-long consultations with his trusted aides weighing his options.
In his last ditch fight, the Chief MinisTer also sought to rope in ministers and mining magnates - the Reddy brothers G Janardhana and G Karunakara, who significantly had led a oust Yeddyurappa campaign last year.
The Reddy brothers and another minister V Somanna have also been indicted by the Lokayukta in the report submitted to the government and Governor H R Bhardwaj yesterday.
Yeddyurappa sent his close confidante Water Resources Minister Basavaraj Bommai to Reddy's residence after which minister and the Reddy brothers' associate B Sreeramulu held confabulations with the Chief Minister.
Before meeting Yeddyurappa, Sreeramulu said the party was supreme. “We will abide by the party high command. We are not bigger than high command, we are not bigger than the party. High command decision is final”.
In-charge of BJP affairs in Karnataka, Dharmendra Pradhan arrived in Bangalore ahead of the party's central leaders Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh who will be here tomorrow to oversee the leadership change.
BJP state unit President K S Eshwarappa, another contender for the chief minister's post, said: “All of us will sit together and elect a new leader”. PTI