Hindu priests were called in to sanctify and bless room 323A, the room of Karnataka's chief minister in Vidhana Soudha, the grand stone secretariat, but it did not appear Thursday's plea for divine intervention would be enough to keep D V Sadananda Gowda (58) in office for long.
An hour before the state's 26th chief minister entered his new office, simmering discontent in the state BJP over Gowda's ascension as a proxy for his deposed mentor, BS Yeddyurappa, blew up into a boycott of his oath-taking ceremony by more than 50 of 122 party MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) at the colonial-era Raj Bhavan
"Why should we attend this ceremony when this man (Gowda) is no more than a front for Yeddyurappa?" an MLA from the rival faction, led by BJP national general secretary Ananth Kumar and state party president K S Eshwarappa, told Hindustan Times. "What was the point of removing Yeddyurappa then?"
The man who lost the internal election to Gowda on Wednesday, revenue minister Jagdish Shettar, turned down an offer to be deputy chief minister, skipped the oath-taking ceremony and was incommunicado.
Party insiders predict a bigger storm ahead, especially if Gowda, a two-time MP from the coastal constituency of Udupi-Chikmagalur, makes way for Yeddyurappa within half a year. Asked about his mentor's possible return, the ever-smiling Gowda lost his affability for just a moment during a press conference after Thursday's prayers. "I cannot predict the future," he said and turned away.
Kumar and Eashwarappa, one looking sullen, the other irked, were the only two from the rival faction faction at the oath-taking ceremony. They sat together to a side and did not acknowledge the main gathering, where Gowda, Yeddyurappa and more than 60 MLAs laughed, hugged each other and sang the national anthem with full-throated enthusiasm.
"He is now the CM, and we congratulate him," said Kumar, pointedly adding a dig at Yeddyurappa. "We hope he (Gowda) will provide a clean and efficient administration." Eashwarappa, irritated at being asked about dissidence, snapped at reporters. "At a time like this, should you be asking such questions?"
As if the vertical split in the party was not enough, public interest litigation was filed in the Karnataka High Court on Thursday, accusing Gowda of violating municipal laws by amalgamating two plots of residential land and building a commercial complex in a Bangalore suburb.
With Vikas Pathak in Delhi