Several BJP MLAs and leaders seeking out Minister for Medium and Major Irrigation Ramesh Jarkiholi in the recent past has raised many eyebrows in political circles. While a section of those gravitating towards him are aspirants for berths in the proposed State Cabinet expansion/reshuffle, others are those unhappy with Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa family “interfering” in the running of the government.
Last week, Mr. Jarkiholi met some BJP legislators, who aspire to join the Cabinet, at his home over dinner. Though he claimed that the meeting was apolitical, few buy that. He also had other visitors at his house, such as the newly-elected MLA Munirathna. On at least three occasions in the recent past, Mr. Jarkiholi has said that his fellow defectors like Mr. Munirathna and N. Nagaraj (MTB) should be made Ministers. “It is a solemn promise that the party made to them. It needs to be kept,” he had said.
Mr. Jarkiholi also makes no bones about his cozy relationship with the Katti brothers, who are upset with the State BJP leadership. He calls Umesh Katti, former Minister, a close friend and guide, and his brother Ramesh Katti, former MP, his childhood friend.
“Dissenters are rallying around Mr. Jarkiholi because they are upset with B.Y. Vijayendra, the Chief Minsiter’s son and BJP State vice-president,” said a senior party leader. “Some people in the party and the government think that Mr. Vijayendra is unfairly interfering in everything. They want the party high command to discipline him. They are gathering around Mr. Jarkiholi, hoping he will mobilise support for their cause and reach out to the high command.”
Mr. Jarkiholi’s proximity to Devendra Fadnavis, Leader of the Opposition in Maharashtra, is seen as another of his strengths and the reason for his access to the high command. Another leader pointed out the irony of party leaders seeking out Mr. Jarkiholi, a recent migrant, to reach out the top leaders.
Some leaders feel there is more to it than meets the eye. “Mr. Jarkiholi, or any other BJP leader worth his salt, cannot do something like encouraging dissenters unless they have the support of the Sangh Parivar or the party high command,” said a BJP leader and former Minister.
Mr. Jarkiholi is said to be in regular touch with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leaders since he convinced them to allow his follower Mahesh Kumathalli to contest from Athani and to nominate Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi to the Legislative Council. “Mr. Jarkiholi may not like to spoil the benefits of this proximity if all this is not sanctioned by the party high command or the Sangh Parivar,” said another leader.
Mr. Jarkiholi, however, has dismissed suggestions that he is either involved in or encouraging dissidence. “I have clarified already that the dinner at my home was non-political. I have nothing against Mr. Vijayendra. He is doing his job of party vice- president. He gets the credit for the party’s win in the recent bypolls,” he said.