Bengaluru: Six months after the Assembly elections in Karnataka, the BJP on Friday named senior MLA R. Ashok as the Leader of the Opposition in the Congress-ruled State.
The official announcement came after the BJP Legislature Party meeting at a private hotel here last evening. The party, which chose a Veerashaiva-Lingayat leader B.Y. Vijayendra, Shikaripur MLA and son of senior party leader and former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa (BSY), to head the State Unit last week, has now chosen a Vokkaliga as the Leader of the Opposition. The choice of Ashok suggests that the BJP High Command has deferred to the demands of BSY, the Lingayat strongman.
A 7-time MLA, the 66-year-old Ashok was Deputy Chief Minister of the BJP Government from July 2012 to May 2013. As a Minister, the RSS-schooled Ashok had worked with four Chief Ministers and held various portfolios such as Home, Revenue, Municipal Administration, Transport and Health and Family Welfare.
With Ashok’s appointment, the BJP hopes to repeat its 2019 Lok Sabha polls performance when it secured 25 of the 28 seats with support of the two dominant communities (Lingayat and Vokkaliga) in the upcoming LS polls.
With the twin party appointments in a week, BSY is said to have gained complete control over the party in the State.
Ashok first contested the Assembly polls in Uttarahalli Constituency (Bengaluru) by-election in 1997 and won and since then he has never turned back. He later won from this Constituency in 1999 and 2004 Assembly polls.
Later, following the delimitation, Ashok contested from the newly formed Padmanabhanagar Constituency in Bengaluru in the 2008, 2013, 2018 and 2023 polls and won all of them.
However, there was discontent among a section of the leaders as senior leader and Vijayapura MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal did not mince words while expressing dissatisfaction over only leaders from Southern region of the State getting all the important positions in BJP, though it has a strong presence in Northern region also.
Before the Legislature Party meeting too, Yatnal had launched a veiled attack at Yediyurappa by arguing that the party should not come under the control of any particular family. Yatnal and former Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi went out of the meeting even before it started, while former Ministers S.T. Somashekar and Shivaram Hebbar skipped the meet.
Earlier in the day, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman and BJP National General Secretary Dushyant Kumar Gautam, who arrived in Bengaluru as Central observers on Friday noon, met some aspirants for the post — Yatnal and Aravind Bellad — before the meeting to take them into confidence. They also paid a courtesy visit to the residences of Yediyurappa and Basavaraj Bommai.
Soon after being chosen as the Opposition Leader, Ashok said he and Party State President B.Y. Vijayendra would work unitedly to strengthen the party.
Accusing the Congress of indulging in large-scale corruption, he said the priority for him and Vijayendra for now was to free the State from the maladministration of the Congress party.
Though he has been elected as the Leader of the Opposition, all the 66 MLAs of the BJP are leaders, Ashok said and added that they will also co-ordinate effectively with the BJP’s alliance partner JD(S).