Yeddy prolongs BJP agony

Bangalore, Jan. 4: Karnataka's BJP government will have to spend another 10 tense days after breakaway leader B.S. Yeddyurappa set a January 15 deadline to finalise its course of action.

The former chief minister, who was asked to resign by the party leadership over graft charges, recently said "the BJP government will be history once we take a decision". Today, his Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) was expected to chalk out its plan of action but put off the decision by 10 days.

Yeddyurappa claimed he had "sufficient strength" to pull down the government. "Fifteen BJP MLAs and several former MLAs and ex-MPs participated in today's meeting. But we will discuss again to finalise our strategy," he told a news conference today.

The deferment is being seen as Yeddyurappa's attempt to play the numbers' game to taunt his former party as it tries to retain the decisive Lingayat votes that vaulted it to power four years ago. Yeddyurappa is a Lingayat.

The Jagadish Shettar-headed government will be reduced to a minority if the 15 MLAs cross over.

"I will not allow the government to present its final budget," Yeddyurappa said. The government is expected to present a populist budget before the April polls.

The BJP has 119 MLAs in the 224-member House and needs 113 for a majority. Yeddyurappa claimed the "unconditional" support of 45-50 legislators. "If you ask me why I am still talking only of 15 MLAs, that's part of my strategy," said the leader, who was the BJP's first chief minister in the south.

The topple threat comes after Yeddyurappa's initial claims that he would allow the government to last its full term. He attributed the change of stand to "popular cry from our party and the state's voters to pull down this government".

Yeddyurappa brushed off suggestions that his support had shrunk from the 75 MLAs who had rallied behind him after the BJP leadership asked him to resign as chief minister in June 2012, and the 40-odd seen with him until he quit the party late last year. "All the 15 MLAs invited were present at the meeting today," he said when asked about the perceived erosion of support.

The 15 were part of a larger group of 21 BJP MLAs who were with Yeddyurappa when he floated his party less than a month ago. KJP was launched on December 9 at a rally in the northern Karnataka town of Haveri, considered the hub of the Lingayat community.

A KJP insider who confirmed the plan to pull down the government claimed that the party would get "another 15 MLAs for sure". This is in addition to the at least six ministers known to be close to Yeddyurappa and who may join him if the government collapses.

But Yeddyurappa sought to allay the perception that his party was an outfit of BJP dissenters, saying the KJP had attracted leaders from all parties.

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