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Two senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs from north Karnataka walked out of the party legislative party meeting held in Bengaluru on Friday, before the it even started.
The walkout, staged by senior BJP MLAs Basanagouda Patil Yatnal and Ramesh Jarkiholi, comes hours after Yatnal had expressed his concerns that the party should avoid becoming a dynastic entity. Yatnal’s comments were seemingly directed at the recent appointment of BY Vijayendra, son of veteran leader BS Yediyurappa, as the Karnataka state unit president.
Addressing the media, the Vijayapura MLA highlighted the potential backlash from both the BJP and Hindu activists if the party leans towards being a family-centric organisation. His remarks set a dissonant tone ahead of the legislative party meeting, scheduled for late on Friday, where opposition leaders in the assembly and council were to be chosen.
Yatnal also put forth a demand that the leader of the opposition in the assembly should be from North Karnataka. “We have demanded regional equality. One should be from here and one should be from there. When it comes to the region, all North Karnataka MLAs will unite without any caste division,” Yatnal said.
In efforts to gauge party sentiment, BJP central observers, including Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, BJP national general secretary Dushyant Kumar Gautam, and Karnataka BJP general secretary (organisation) Rajesh G V, met Yatnal at his residence in the city, ahead of the meeting.
After the meeting with the party observers, Yatnal while sharing his concerns to the reporters said, disclosing what he described as the hard truths within the party. “I have told everything to the party observers. I have told them about people who have cheated and made adjustments. I have also talked about how the party has become community-centred. BJP must not become the party of one family… The high command must not make decisions by just listening to a few people,” Yatnal said.
To a question whether he would welcome the newly elected BJP state chief BY Vijayendra, Yathnal declined to react. The senior party MLA also claimed that attempts were being made to ‘buy him.’ “Yesterday [Thursday] an agent had come to buy me. I told that chap that I had the capacity to buy 10 people like him. Such cheap things are being done,” Yatnal said.
To a question whether it was Vijayendra who had sent the ‘agent’ to him, Yatnal said he will disclose it when “the time comes.”
When asked whether any blackmailing happened in the selection of the state president, Yatnal said, “What else is it? Our honest Hindu workers are getting killed. A fear is being created by jailing people for a single Facebook post. What’s the reason? All this is happening because of their [certain BJP leaders’] ‘adjustment politics’.”
Regarding the demand for a legislator from North Karnataka to lead the opposition, Yatnal maintained that if this regional equality was not fulfilled, the people, along with him and other MLAs, would take a stand. “We have demanded regional equality. One should be from here and one should be from there. When it comes to the region, all North Karnataka MLAs are united without any caste division,” Yatnal said.
If the demand is not fulfilled, he said, “Then people and we will decide. We will not sit idly. This is not my nature to tie hands and say ‘Jee Huzur,’” adding that he has many MLAs with him.
Another senior MLA Arvid Bellad echoed a similar sentiment saying, “North Karnataka has a high number of seats and it is a stronghold of the BJP. Even in the coming election north Karnataka will be important. So, we want attention given to the region,” Bellad said.
Arun Dev is an Assistant Editor with the Karnataka bureau of Hindustan Times. A journalist for over 10 years, he has written extensively on crime and politics.
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