B S Yeddyurappa, who ushered in the first BJP government in the south more than four years ago, on Friday quit the party with which he was associated for over four decades, dealing it a severe blow six months before Assembly elections.
The exit of a bitter 70-year-old Yeddyurappa, who started his public life with the RSS and joined the Jan Sangh, may not not pose any immediate threat to the government headed by Jagdish Shettar but comes as a huge setback to BJP which is devoid of a leader of mass appeal and stature in the state.
He plans to launch a regional party adopting the name of Karnataka Janata Party, already registered with the Election Commision.
A practitioner of ruthless politics, who cobbled a majority in the summer of 2008 by making MLAs of rival parties resign and get reelected, faxed a letter to party President Nitin Gadkari, resigning from primary membership of the party.
Yeddyurappa, who remained in power for 38 months and was unseated last year following the Lokayukta indictment of him in an alleged mining scam, later met Assembly Speaker K G Bopaiah and submitted his resignation from the House seat.
"I am forced to take this hard decision to leave the party which I built in the state", a visibly emotional former chief minister said in a scathing attack on BJP leadership. "It was a couple of leaders who victimised and pushed me to this situation of no return".
While he mentioned no names, Yeddyurappa had in the past few weeks repeatedly targeted party leader H N Ananth Kumar and state BJP President K S Eshwarappa accusing them of conspiring against him.
It was also no secret that Yeddyurappa was not seeing eye to eye with the party stalwart L K Advani and, according to one account, wasn't even on talking terms with him.
Reacting to Yeddyurappa's decision, Shettar said it was "unfortunate" and wished him good luck.
"Today, with great pain and a heavy heart, I am beginning a new phase in my political life", said Yeddyurappa, who recounted how he had striven hard to build BJP and bring it to power for the first time in Karnataka and South India.
For now, the four-and-half-month old Shettar government seems to face no threat to its survival.
Yeddyurappa asked ministers and MLAs supporting him not to resign, saying his Karnataka Janatha Party (KJP) would extend cooperation to the government to complete its full term. "We should not face the charge that we toppled the government".
Yeddyurappa also appealed to MLAs, MLCs and MPs loyal to him not to attend the December nine rally at Haveri where he is slated to formally take over the reins of KJP, a party registered last year but yet to make electoral debut.
Sounding extremely bitter, Yeddyurappa claimed he was promised by BJP central leaders he would be made Chief Minister again within 24 hours of "relief" (from the court in the mining case) and state unit president (in the interim) after his successor takes over but did not honour the promises.
"They (the party leadership) deceived me", he alleged.
The party central leadership went on "dodging" him for a year, he charged and spoke of a conspiracy within BJP to finish him politically. He said he tolerated "with great pain the troubles given to me".