Bangalore: With Assembly elections just round the corner in Karnataka, the central BJP held consultations with key leaders on Saturday to pick a new state unit President, a not-so-smooth affair.

Senior party leader Arun Jaitley and the in-charge of party affairs in Karnataka, Dharmendra Pradhan, presided a meeting of the party's state core committee, where factionalism was in full play. It was attended among others by Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, Deputy Chief Ministers K S Eshwarappa and R Ashoka and former Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, besides senior party leader H N Ananth Kumar.

Eshwarappa announced his resignation as state unit President on March seven, paving the way for a new party head. According to party sources, Sadananda Gowda, who was the state unit president when BJP installed its first ever government in the South in 2008, may have emerged as the front-runner for the post. The sources said Gowda has the backing of the party's central leadership. The party had sought to put him in the saddle last year, to replace Eshwarappa, but it was stoutly opposed by heavyweight B S Yeddyurappa before he quit BJP and floated a regional outfit Karnataka Janatha Paksha.

Gowda comes from the dominant Vokkaliga community and it's considered a huge plus. He also comes from coastal Karnataka, a BJP stronghold though there is said to be discontent among a section of the party's rank and file in recent years.

(Agencies)

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