Karnataka's ruling BJP announced on Saturday that chief minister Jagadish Shettar would lead the party in the Assembly polls due in May, a move clearly aimed at blunting the caste advantage its former leader BS Yeddyurappa was hoping to benefit from.
The decision to go to the polls under Shettar's leadership was taken at a meeting of party's senior leaders in Bangalore, party's state general secretary and Lok Sabha member Prahalad Joshi told reporters.
The meeting was attended by former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president M. Venkaiah Naidu, who is a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka, Shettar, state BJP president KS Eshwarappa, former chief minister DV Sadananda Gowda and several ministers.
Shettar and Yeddyurappa belong to Lingayat caste, a large section of which is generally believed to be backing the BJP on the grouse that Congress has neglected it.
The Congress state unit continues to be hit by caste divisions with Lingayat leaders in the party persisting with their demand that one of them be made the president in place of incumbent G Parameshwara, who is a Dalit.
Yeddyurappa had used the caste card to the hilt in the May 2008 polls to lead the BJP to power for the first time in Karnataka.
Lingayats account for about 17% of the state's 65 million population.
Yeddyurappa, who was forced out of office in July 2011 over mining bribery charges, quit BJP Nov 30 to lead a regional outfit, Karnataka Janata Party.