Caste factor makes Shettar win Karnataka top job

Bangalore: Life has come full circle for Jagadish Shivappa Shettar, who lost the race for the top post in Karnataka last year only to emerge stronger now with the support of BJP strongman B S Yeddyurappa. The caste factor worked in favour of Shettar, who was sworn in as Karnataka Chief Minister today, at a time when Assembly polls are less than a year away.

Nearly a year ago, Yeddyurappa had hand-picked D V Sadananda Gowda and ensured Shettar`s defeat in the legislature party meeting to elect a new leader after he had to quit as Chief Minister following his indictment in a Lokayukta report on illegal mining. 56-year-old Shettar, propped by senior party leader H N Ananth Kumar and State BJP President K S Eshwarappa last year, had sportively likened it to a semi-final cricket match and said age was on his side. Today, it was proved right

Yeddyurappa had wanted to be the undisputed leader of the influential Lingayat community, to which Shettar also belongs and plumped for Gowda, a Vokkaliga, in August last. However, it was now time for Yeddyurappa to "correct his mistake" as he came under fire from a section of the Lingayat community for not backing Shettar last year. And this time, his message to the party high-command was loud and clear: Make Shettar Chief Minister or face consequences.

The BJP central leadership bought "resourceful" Yeddyurappa?s argument that it makes lot of sense to face the next Assembly elections, due in May 2013 under a Lingayat leader. The party counts Lingayats as its key political base. For the central BJP it is important that the party wins a good number of Lok Sabha seats from Karnataka in the Parliamentary elections in 2014.

Shettar will, however, have more or less the same tenure as his predecessor Gowda, who had 11 months in office. His task appears to be cut out now. He has to refurbish the image of the ruling BJP, which has got to put its house in order and do so quickly, as infighting and acrimonious tussle on the leadership issue has significantly dented its public rating.

Shettar inherits a legislature party deeply divided along caste lines, with ugly factionalism in full public display. Soft-spoken Shettar, who served as Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister under Gowda, comes from a family that`s rooted in the erstwhile Jan Sangh. He was born on December 17, 1955 in Kerur village of Badami Taluk in Bagalkot district.His father Shivappa Shivamurthappa Shettar had nade Hubli his home base.He was an activist of Jan Sangh and consecutively elected as member of Hubli-Dharwad City Corporation for five times.

He was also first Mayor of Jan sangh in Southern India. Shettar`s uncle Sadashiva Shettar was Member of Assembly from Hubli Constituency representing Jansangh in 1967. Sadashiva Shettar was the first Jan Sangh MLA from South India. Jagadish Shettar holds BCom and LLB degrees and was a practicing lawyer for 20 years at the Hubli Bar.

He was an activist of Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishat (ABVP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He became President of Hubli Rural unit of BJP in 1990 and four years later was elected head of Dharwad district unit of the party. Shettar was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1994 from Hubli Rural segment and had been reelected from the constituency successively for four terms.

Shettar was made State BJP Secretary in 1996 and Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly in 1999 and served in that position when S M Krishna was the Chief Minister. In 2005, he was appointed State BJP President and served as Revenue Minister in the BJP-JDS coalition government headed by H D Kumaraswamy in 2006.

In 2008 after BJP came to power, he was made Assembly Speaker, much against his wish as Yeddyurappa allegedly chose to sideline him as he belonged to the same community. In 2009, he made a strong pitch to quit that post, and was made Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister. Shettar married Shilpa in 1984 and the couple have two sons — Prashant and Sankalp.