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After over five months since its defeat in the Karnataka assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party is likely to appoint Union minister Shobha Karandlaje as the new state president soon, party leaders familiar with the matter said on Monday, though she said she was not aware of the development.
Karandlaje, a Vokkaliga and the Lok Sabha MP from the Udupi-Chikkamagaluru constituency, is the front runner for the post, the leaders said. Vokkaligas, who are a politically dominant community, are largely concentrated in the Old Mysuru region of the state, where the BJP is planning to further consolidate its votes.
The BJP has already announced its alliance with the JD(S) for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. JD(S), with a strong voter base in the Vokkaliga-dominated Old Mysuru region, is expected to boost the BJP’s prospects in the areas it’s trying to make inroads.
Nalin Kumar Kateel, who is currently serving as the BJP state president, was given an extension after his tenure ended last year. While he is said to have offered to step down after the defeat in the assembly elections, the BJP high command had asked him to continue till his replacement is found.
Amid speculations, Karandlaje on Monday said she had no information about the development. “I have no information about the post of BJP state president. I’m happy as a Union minister. I have no intention of joining state politics. I’m already doing good work,” she said.
“I have not received any information from the high command. I don’t know about any such news. My wish is that Modi should become the prime minister again,” Karandlaje added.
Meanwhile, BJP MP Pratap Simha wished Karandlaje on her birthday, and urged her to come back to state politics, triggering more speculations about her new role. However, he later clarified that he was still a junior politician to talk about the BJP state president.
“I’m still a junior politician. The post of the BJP state president will be decided by the high command. It’s just been 10 years since I joined the party. I’m not qualified to talk about the appointment. The party workers have been urging Shobha Karandlaje to come back to state politics. I wished her in the same breath,” Simha said.
Meanwhile, other senior Vokkaliga leaders, including former ministers R Ashoka and CN Ashwath Narayan, are said to be upset with the latest developments, party leaders said on the condition of anonymity. Former BJP national general secretary CT Ravi and BJP state vice-president BJ Vijayendra are also said to be in the race for the post.
Last month, former chief minister and Lingayat leader BS Yediyurappa is said to have pushed for his son Vijayendra to be appointed as the BJP chief in the state. Yediyurappa, who was in New Delhi to attend a parliamentary board meeting, reportedly pushed for his son’s elevation to the post. However, Vijayendra is considered a junior to many senior leaders in the party, a BJP leader said wishing not to be named.
While caste calculations and regional considerations makes the decision-making process difficult for the party keeping the Lok Sabha elections in mind, it remains to be seen how the BJP will position itself. A final decision is expected by the end of the week after consultation with senior state leaders, according to party leaders familiar with the matter.
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