Karnataka: BJP might not choose LOP before the next session

The BJP wants an aggressive leader who can corner Congress on its policies

PTI03_03_2023_000190B Union Home Minister Amit Shah flanked by Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai (to his left) and senior leader B.S. Yediyurappa in Karnataka | PTI

The BJP in Karnataka is still smarting from their defeat in the just concluded Assembly polls. While the Congress party captured power by wresting 135 out of the 224 seats and is facing the big challenge of balancing the seniority, caste and region equation while filling up the Siddaramaiah cabinet, the BJP is in self-introspection mode and still on the hunt for the right person to be the leader of the opposition.

With a seasoned politician like Siddaramaiah as the chief minister, the BJP is looking for an aggressive and tactful leader who can corner the ruling Congress on its programmes and policies while amplifying the Opposition parties’ pitch on issues and legislations that are likely to go against its political posturing be it the reservation rejig, anti-cow slaughter bill and anti-conversion bill among others.

The BJP central leadership has started informal consultations with senior leaders from the state to pick the LOP. Meanwhile, the party has plans to replace the state president Nalin Kumar Kateel, whose term ended last August.  

Speculations are rife over former chief minister Basavaraj Bommai being a frontrunner for the post of LOP among the many contenders like former deputy chief ministers R Ashok and Dr C N Ashwathnarayan (Vokkaliga), former ministers Arvind Bellad and Basanagouda Patil Yatnal (Lingayat) and Sunil Kumar (OBC).

Bommai has administrative experience, but his record of failing to emerge as a leader of the Lingayat community after Yediyurappa might go against his candidature. The party saw the Lingayat support waning in the just-concluded polls and its vote share increasing in the Old Mysuru region (Vokkaliga heartland). And the party is in a dilemma over choosing between a Lingayat and a Vokkaliga. Considering that the coastal Karnataka voted decisively in favour of the BJP’s 'Hindutva' ideology, the party might pick an MLA from the region or one who is a vocal proponent of the Hindutva like Sunil Kumar (Karkala) or Basanagouda Patil Yatnal. 

Kateel might be replaced with union ministers Bhagwant Khuba (Lingayat) or Shobha Karandlaje (Vokkaliga) even as the party is bracing for crucial Lok Sabha polls in May 2024. While a surprise candidate cannot be ruled out, the state party chief will be required to step up the effort to unite the party against internal bickerings and energise the cadres, adequately project the development agenda of the Narendra Modi government, its pro-people central schemes and the BJP’s model of good governance.    

While the ongoing three-day Legislature session that concludes on Wednesday might see a new Speaker being elected, the BJP might show no hurry in picking the LOP till the next (Budget) session that is due in June or July. 

In the Congress camp, there are no takers for the Speaker’s post as most legislators are hoping for a cabinet berth, which currently has eight ministers besides the chief minister and deputy chief minister DK Shivakumar. The party is mulling over the names of veterans like RV Deshpande, who is the protem speaker and former minister TB Jayachandra. Former minister UT Khader who was the deputy leader of the Opposition in the previous BJP regime is also on the list of probable. 


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