Shettar: Yeddy's rival-turned ally

With Karnataka BJP strongman and foe-turned-friend BS Yeddyurappa on his side and the caste factor working in his favour, 56-year-old Jagadish Shivappa Shettar had things going for him this time, particularly when assembly elections are less than a year away.

The scene today is in sharp contrast to the one seen in August last year when Yeddyurappa, not in a position to digest the rise of another leader from Lingayat community to which he also belongs, backed DV Sadananda Gowda, a Vokkaliga.

Eleven months later, it was role reversal of sorts as it were as the powerful Yeddyurappa faction wanted Gowda to go, after things did not go as they planned and the incumbent Chief Minister chose to come out of their shadow.

Shettar lost to Gowda in the election at the legislature party meeting last year and ironically, the latter today had to pave the way for him to step into his shoes.

The BJP central leadership appeared to have been convinced by Yeddyurappa camp's contention that the party needs to fight the Assembly election, due in May next year, under a Lingayat leader, clinching the issue in favour of Shettar.

BJP counts Lingayats, a majority community, as its main vote bank and Shettar also hails from north Karnataka, a region that the party considers its stronghold. Both the factors did the trick for Shettar.

Shettar, propped up by senior party leader H N Ananth Kumar and state BJP president K S Eshwarappa last year, had taken the reverse at that time sportively, likening it to a semi-final cricket match and said age was on his side.

Today, it has been proved right. He will, however, have a short tenure with assembly polls barely a year away. There are also talks in sections of state BJP of opting for early elections, likely in December along with Gujarat.

Shettar's task appears cut out now. The ruling faction- ridden BJP has got to put its house in order and do so quickly, as infighting and acrimonious tussle on the leadership issue has dented its public image in no small measure.

Ministers and MLAs loyal to Sadananda Gowda, who had publicly backed him in recent days as caste politics came to the fore, are unlikely to take kindly to Shettar's elevation, raising questions about the government's stability. So, it will be interesting to see his performance as a "night watchman".

Soft-spoken Shettar, currently Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister, assumes charge at a time when the party is deeply divided, as caste-equations have come to play.

Shettar 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 was a Jan Sangh activist and consecutively elected as member of Hubli- Dharwad City Corporation five times. He was also the first Mayor of Jan Sangh in South India.

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