Shettar may have two deputies

Gowda to resign today; party chief post still a bone of contention

Shettar may have two deputies

Amid high drama, the BJP Legislature Party in Karnataka on Tuesday unanimously elected Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister Jagadish Shettar its leader in place of Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda.

The meeting, attended by party central leaders, witnessed wrangling between different factions. Jagadish Shettar is former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa’s nominee to succeed Gowda.

The day’s events unfolded in the morning with outgoing chief minister’s supporters bargaining hard for the creation of a deputy chief minister post, besides appointing Gowda party state unit president. Their demands at the eleventh hour delayed the election by over five hours.

Gowda, too, showed that he could be assertive by not submitting his resignation soon after Shettar was elected. Gowda is scheduled to meet Governor H R Bhardwaj around 11:30 am on Wednesday to submit his resignation.

In an irony of sorts, during the election, Shettar’s name was proposed by Gowda himself and was seconded by Yeddyurappa and Minister Govind Karjol.

Shettar will be sworn in as the state’s 21st chief minister on Thursday around noon at Raj Bhavan, but the day’s developments indicated that the bickerings in the party would continue.

The BJPLP meeting was scheduled to begin at 11 am, but Gowda’s supporters refused to attend the meeting demanding that the party central leadership announce his appointment as state party president and name party chief K S Eshwarappa deputy chief minister. Yeddyurappa’s supporters refused to accept Gowda as party chief. They also opposed the creation of a deputy chief minister’s post, arguing the move would weaken the new chief minister. 

Jaitley and Rajnath Singh, appointed observers for the election of the new leader at BJPLP, held parleys with the warring factions. They finally had to yield to the pressure mounted by the rival camps to create not just one deputy chief minister’s post, but two. No BJP-ruled state has a deputy chief minister. The post finds no mention in the party’s book of governance.

Eshwarappa will be one of the two deputy chief ministers. A final decision on the other post will be taken later. In all probability, R Ashoka, who is backed by Yeddyurappa, may get the post. The anti-Yeddyurappa camp is firm on having a deputy chief minister to counter any move by the former chief minister to take control of the government.

As many as 31 ministers are likely to be sworn in along with Shettar. Two cabinet berths may remain vacant. The list will be finalised by the party national president in New Delhi on Wednesday evening.

In case Ashoka, a Vokkaliga, becomes deputy chief minister, Gowda may not be appointed party president. A Dalit is likely to become party chief in the state. Gowda may become a Rajya Sabha member besides getting a party post.

Several Vokkaliga legislators in the party openly identified with Gowda in the backdrop of community leaders giving a public call to condemn his ouster as chief minister. The sudden consolidation of the Gowda supporters and their firm stand on their demand took the visiting central leaders by surprise. Eshwarappa rallied behind the outgoing chief minister to bag the deputy chief ministership.

Gowda’s supporters released a list of 53 MLAs who had identified with the camp. The Yeddyurappa loyalists countered by stating that they had more than 60 MLAs waiting for the BJPLP to commence.

On his part, Gowda said he would resign only on Wednesday, sending a message to the party central leaders that he could not be taken for granted.

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