Shettar set to be new Karnataka CM

New Delhi: Jagadish Shettar is set to be the new Chief Minister of Karnataka with the BJP today succumbing to B S Yeddyurappa`s demands for replacing Sadananda Gowda, marking the second change of leadership in the state in 11 months. Gowda is expected to step down tomorrow paving the way for Shettar, a 56-year-old Lingayat leader and Rural Development Minister, to take over as the Chief Minister, sources said.

As per the decisions reached at a series of meetings today, K S Eshwarappa and R Ashok may be made Deputy Chief Ministers. Gowda may be made party unit chief in Karnataka. The decision to replace Gowda with Shettar, Yeddyurappa`s close associate, was taken at BJP`s Core Group and Parliamentary Board meetings today. 59-year-old Gowda, expressed readiness to quit, held marathon discussions with the BJP leadership, including L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arunj Jaitley.

He will meet party President Nitin Gadkari tomorrow after which the decision will be announced. Jaitley said the entire political situation in the state was discussed during over two-and-a-half hour meeting. "After the Chief Minister meets the party President, whatever the party`s Core Group and the Parliamentary Board has discussed and decided, after consultations with the Chief Minister, will be announced tomorrow morning," Jaitley said.

Shettar will be the third Chief Minister in four years in Karnataka, the only southern state having BJP government, and his nomination will mark the second change in 11 months. Gowda, who replaced Yeddyurrappa after the latter was removed in the wake of corruption charges, earlier said he was ready to quit whenever asked by the party high command.

"I have said whatever decision the central leadership takes, I am prepared to accept. That means if they ask me to quit the post, I am prepared. If they ask me to continue, I will continue," he told reporters after reaching here from Bangalore in the afternoon. Seemingly unperturbed by the decision to remove him, Gowda said he extend all cooperation to his "good friend" Shettar.

"Shettar is very good friend of mine. He is more senior and more experienced. I will always give him full cooperation to him and if I want to give any suggestion for the betterment (of administration), I will personally visit him and give my suggestions," he told reporters. Seemingly relaxed, Gowda said that he had strived hard to give corruption-free administration in the state where he was the second Chief Minister in the four-year old BJP Government.

Yeddyurappa, who was removed unceremoniously last year after being indicted by the Lokayukta in corruption cases against him, has been demanding removal of Gowda and replacing him with his close associate Shettar. While being ready to quit, Gowda said, "My intention is that we all should remain united and ensure the party`s victory in the next Assembly polls….Ultimately, party is important, organisation is important."

Asked whether he would become the president of the party`s state unit, he said, "I have no ambitions. I will not demand any position. I would like to remain as an ordinary worker. Party gave me everything. Party gave me Chief Minister`s post which I did not demand. With the cooperation from all, I strived hard to deliver good administration– without any scope for corruption." Earlier, he said the decision on leadership should not be delayed as the state was reeling under drought.

"Immediately they (party high command) should take decision as 123 talukas are under severe drought and people should not feel that political disturbance in the state is affecting the functioning of the government," he said. "I want to impress upon my leaders that immediate decision should be taken and whatever it may be, the administration should go on smoothly," Gowda said. Congress said the change of guard would not help and there should be fresh elections.