The BJP central leadership now has the courage and the strength to implement wholesale changes in leadership in states, national organising secretary B L Santhosh has said, triggering fresh speculation of impending changes in the Karnataka government headed by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai.
Speaking at a meeting of BJP leaders in the Mysuru region on the weekend, Santhosh stated: “In the last Delhi municipal council elections, we decided that no sitting corporators would be given tickets, and fielded all new candidates. In Gujarat, we decided against fielding councillors who had been in power for more than two terms, as well as those in their inner circles, and there was wholesale change.”
Only the BJP could carry out such large-scale changes, Santhosh said. “Those who used to sit at the back have all come forward to the front rows. In some parties and even in some districts in this state, there is a situation where people have been permanently in the back rows. The party has today obtained the courage and the strength to change this arrangement.”
Santhosh added: “I am not saying that this will happen everywhere, but the BJP is able to make decisions that cannot even be envisaged by other political parties. Due to the confidence and will in the party, these decisions are possible, and in Gujarat, when the Chief Minister was changed, the entire Cabinet was also changed. This was done with the intent to infuse freshness and not because of any complaints.”
CM Bommai did not react to Santhosh’s statement but suggested it may have been made in the context of civic polls in the state. However, he appeared defensive about his nine-month tenure in power, at a public event in Bengaluru on Sunday, where he was felicitated by seers from backward caste communities.
Bommai took over as CM in July 2021 after the BJP forced Lingayat strongman B S Yediyurappa out.
“They are talking of competence now. I do not think of myself as some highly competent person. There are some people who live under the illusion that they are highly competent and smart. Even though people have shown them their place, they still live in a world of illusion. I am not living under any illusion,” Bommai said. “I am trying to ensure that the people of my state and the poor of my state can live competent lives. This is happening due to the competence of my people and not my own competence,” he added.
Listing his achievements, Bommai said: “I am working on capacity-building, and the capacity-building that I know is providing education and employment to people. I want the people of the state and religious leaders to decide my competence… Measure us according to our work and not our words. We will place our performance report card before the people and seek their blessings. We are not in a situation where we have to abuse others to get votes.”
The CM added: “I have stopped unwanted expenditure. Is that competence or incompetence? Spending funds in an equitable and progressive way is also competence. The economy is not only about money, the economy in my view is about livelihoods, the people, and the livelihood of people.”
The remarks by Santhosh come at a time when there is speculation of the party considering major changes in the Karnataka government, including bringing in a new CM, in the run-up to the 2023 state Assembly polls.
Some decisions regarding the changes could be made during a weekend visit by Bommai to New Delhi, or during a May 3 visit to Karnataka by Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Bommai has said he will broach the issue of Cabinet changes with Shah during his Karnataka visit.
Pressure has grown on the BJP following allegations of corruption under its government in Karnataka, the most recent being the scam in the recruitment of police sub-inspectors, leading to the cancellation of recruitment of 545 candidates.
Last month, senior BJP minister K S Eshwarappa had been forced to resign following the death of a civic contractor, who alleged he was not paid his dues for works implemented for the government and that officials were seeking kickbacks.
The party’s central leadership may resort to large-scale changes to defuse some of the anti-incumbency.
Taking a swipe at Bommai after Santhosh’s remarks indicating changes were imminent, former Karnataka CM and Congress leader Siddaramaiah said Sunday: “Basavaraj is not from the RSS.”