The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Wednesday faced twin challenges in Karnataka, the only southern Indian state it is ruling, from the Reddy brothers and supporters of former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa.
The brothers, mining barons, propped up their associate and former health minister B Sriramulu as an Independent candidate for the Nov 30 bypoll in their political stronghold Bellary, the iron-ore rich district about 300 km from here.
The rebellion came in spite of G Janardhana Reddy being in a Hyderabad jail since September 5 in connection with illegal mining in Andhra Pradesh.
Sriramulu filed the nomination in Bellary accompanied by several BJP law makers including his sister J Shanta, a BJP Lok Sabha member from Bellary, and Janardhana Reddy's younger brother G Somashekara, an assembly member.
Sriramulu went ahead in spite of warning from the state BJP chief KS Eshwarappa that he will be expelled from the party the moment he files the nomination.
He also wrote a letter to BJP president Nitin Gadkari that he was quitting the party as he and the Reddy brothers had been "treated unfairly".
The open defiance by Reddy brothers, who claim the support of over a dozen state BJP law makers besides two Lok Sabha members, came as Yeddyurappa's supporters demanded in Bangalore that he be made state party chief.
The pressure on BJP came within a day of Yeddyurappa coming out of jail on bail after spending 21 days behind bars in the Bangalore central prison in connection with two corruption cases.
"He is the one who has built the party in the last 40 years and brought it to power. Only he can lead to the party to election victory," state excise minister MP Renukacharya told reporters here.
"All legislators and ministers supporting Yeddyurappa will meet soon to chalk a plan to make his state party chief," Renukacharya said.
Industries Minister Murugesh Nirani said "Yeddyurappa should be given a prominent position in the party as he has great organising qualities. This will benefit the party more than him," he said.
Yeddyurappa, however, denied he was aspiring for the state party presidentship.
He told reporters in Tumkur, about 70km from here, that his aim was to strengthen the party and he will go on a state-wide tour immediately.
This is seen in political circles as a move to demonstrate to his detractors in the state unit and at the central level the popularity he enjoys in spite of corruption charges.
The BJP is in no position to expel all state law makers backing the Reddy brothers as that will bring down the party government headed by DV Sadananda Gowda, which took over from Yeddyurappa August 4.
Yeddyurappa quit July 31 after the then Lokayukta N Santosh Hegde sought his trial for corruption in an illegal mining scam.
With Sriramulu's resignation from the assembly the BJP has 119 members including the speaker in the 225-member house that includes one nominated member. The party has the support of one Independent member.
Gowda is still a Lok Sabha member and is expected to get elected to the legislative council soon.
The BJP is expected to announce its candidate for the Bellary bypoll Thursday or Friday, the last day for filing nomination.
Counting is on December 4.