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An audio storm has hit the beleaguered ruling BJP in Karnataka, which has deepened the crisis and put question marks over the stability of Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa government in the state.

In an alleged audio tape, state BJP president and MP Naleen Kumar Kateel is hinting at a possible change of leadership in Karnataka. In the leaked audio, which he claims fake, Kateel told someone in his mother tongue Tulu that Yediyurappa would be out soon and the new chief minister would come from New Delhi. He also adds that senior BJP leaders and ministers KS Eshwarappa and Jagadish Shettar would also be shown the door.

After this audio shook the party, Kateel has issued a statement claiming it is fake and he has even requested Yediyurappa to conduct a thorough probe into it. However, the latest development has worsened the already volatile political situation, dividing the party further.

Two days ago, Yediyurappa flew to New Delhi and met the party bosses, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, amidst reports of his imminent departure from the chief minister’s office.

Upon his return, the 78-year-old party stalwart reiterated that there is no threat to his chair and no one has asked him to resign. But, some leaders opposed to him maintained in private that Yediyurappa would be eased out after he completes two years in office on July 26. What added some credence to their claims is radio silence of the party high command in New Delhi over reports of Yediyurappa’s ouster as CM.

It is a well-known fact that the powerful Lingayat leader Yediyurappa still enjoys popular support and majority MLAs are still with him. These factors have made job of the high command difficult and every time they try to downsize him or oust him, he uses his personal clout and charisma to save the chair.

The latest political skullduggery and intrigue have complicated the matters, pitting one against another. Even though Kateel has vehemently denied the audio, BSY backers are still skeptical about his claims. Some in private argue that it can’t be a fake audio.

Speaking to News18, a visibly shaken and embarrassed Kateel said that someone had mimicked his voice to create troubles in the ruling party. “It is not my voice. I demand an immediate inquiry into this”, he said.

Yediyurappa camp suspects that BJP national general secretaries BL Santosh and CT Ravi are against him and they want a change of leadership, keeping the 2023 Assembly elections in mind.

Some are selectively leaking the names of Union Minister Pralhad Joshi, CT Ravi and BL Santosh as possible successors to BSY. All three leaders deny such reports and maintain that they will abide by the party decision.

According to political analysts, the leakage of audio may work in favour of BSY, who can use it to consolidate his position, claiming his own men are plotting behind his back.

Since Lingayats are politically and economically the most powerful caste in Karnataka, ejecting BSY won’t be an easy job for the party leadership. Unless they take him into confidence and offer him a suitable alternative, the temperamental BSY is unlikely to agree to make a graceful exit.

Some believe that even if the party bosses want to see his back after July 26, the explosive audio may give him some more time.

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