In a desperate bid to avoid a split in the Karnataka unit of the BJP, party president Nitin Gadkari on Sunday named 56-year-old Jagadish Shettar as the state’s new chief minister, replacing DV Sadananda Gowda.
“Gowda has requested me to accept his resignation as chief minister… I have accepted it. We have decided to make the change in the interest of the party’s future in the state,” Gadkari told reporters on Sunday.
While the move may ensure that former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa (BSY) does not script another revolt, the BJP knows its problems are far from over in the state.
BSY wants to retain his clout as Karnataka’s most influential Lingayat leader who brought the BJP to power for the first time in a southern state. But the party knows it can’t reinstate him for the fear of losing the graft plank vis-a-vis the Congress. Many in the party fear BSY may rise in revolt again.
Yeddyurappa picked Vokkaliga leader Gowda over Shettar — a Lingayat — after he stepped down following corruption charges in 2011, because he didn’t want a “parallel” Lingayat power centre. But the Karnataka strongman turned against Gowda soon, accusing him of cosying up to JD(S) leaders.
Now, BSY is backing Shettar to keep his community in good humour. With the state assembly polls less due by the year-end, the scenario may undergo more changes.
Senior BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh will be in Bangalore on Monday to work out the formula for other posts such as deputy CM and state party president. The BJP is also believed to be working out a community-balancing formula with the upcoming polls in mind.
One view is that R Ashok, another Vokkaliga leader, would be made deputy CM and state unit president KS Eshwarappa, a Kuruba, retained as party chief.
Gowda would be given a national or state role with dignity, which could mean a Rajya Sabha seat. Another option is to make KS Eshwarappa deputy CM and Gowda state party chief.