Sadananda quits, Shettar set to step in

Bangalore: Capping his 11-month wobbly tenure, D V Sadananda Gowda today resigned as Karnataka Chief Minister paving the way for Jagadish Shettar to take over the mantle from him, but not before dramatic scenes were witnessed with his supporters trying to physically prevent him from stepping down.

56-year-old Shettar, a Lingayat leader backed by former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, will be sworn-in as the the new Chief Minister by Governor H R Bhardwaj at the Raj Bhawan here tomorrow in the third change of guard in the BJP-ruled state in four years. A day after Shettar was formally elected leader of the BJP Legislature Party after an ugly show of factionalism marked by deep caste polarisation, Gowda drove to Raj Bhavan and submitted his resignation to the Governor.

Shettar, who will have more or less the same tenure as his predecessor with Assembly elections due in May next year, staked his claim to form the government which was accepted by the Governor who appointed him as Chief Minister. Gowda`s resignation was, however, not without an element of drama as his vociferous supporters tried in vain to physically prevent him at his residence from proceeding to the Raj Bhavan where also they enacted a smiliar scene. Police used force to evict them.

BJP is counting heavily on the Lingayat community as its main vote base for the Assembly polls. Intense lobbying is on by several Ministers to retain their position, and aspirants seeking berths as senior party leaders Rajnath Singh and Dharmendra Pradhan, in-charge of party affairs in Karnataka, took stock of the situation. The first-ever BJP Government in the South has witnessed uncertainty in the last 11 months with party strongman in the state Yeddyurappa not letting Gowda, his choice then, to settle down.

Piling up pressure, Yeddyurappa finally had his way with the BJP central leadership yielding to his demand to replace Gowda with Shettar. Yeddyurappa, who had quit last year over illegal mining charges, kept constant pressure on the central leadership by setting deadlines to remove Gowda after his failure to get himself reinstated as chief minister. In the last bout, nine ministers loyal to Yeddyurappa had resigned amid reports that the rebel camp was ready to bring down the BJP`s only government in the south. The central leadership stepped in and agreed to their demand for making Shettar the Chief Minister.

"I wish good luck to Jagadish Shettar and his new ministerial team and pray that God gives him strength to solve the problems afflicting the state government," Gowda said after meeting the Governor. A Raj Bhawan communique later said, "In exercise of the powers conferred under Article 164(1) of the Constitution of India, the Governor has accepted the resignation of the Council of Ministers of Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda with immediate effect and appointed Shettar as Chief Minister and invited him to form the government."

With the Vokkaliga-Lingayat caste equations holding sway, Shettar`s election yesterday came after last minute muscle flexing by MLAs loyal to Gowda who initially refused to attend the meeting unless their demands were met. They demanded an assurance from the leadership that the state unit party presidentship would be given to Gowda and Deputy Chief Ministership to incumbent K S Eshwarappa and half of the total ministerial berths. Meanwhile, Shettar, senior leader Rajnath Singh, Pradhan, BJP general secretary H N Anantkumar, Eshwarappa and Yeddyurappa have been holding parleys to finalise the list of ministers who will take oath tomorrow.