New Delhi/Bangalore: Cornered by a disgruntled B S Yeddyurappa, the BJP leadership on Sunday got Sadananda Gowda to resign as Karnataka Chief Minister to be replaced by Jagadish Shettar, in the second change of CM in 11 months.
The BJP legislature party will meet on Tuesday to elect 56-year-old Shettar, a Lingayat, as its leader. He is expected to be sworn-in as Chief Minister on July 11.
The BJP high command yielded to Yeddyurappa`s demand for the change in view of the Assembly elections due early next year and agreed to replace 59-year-old Gowda, a Vokkaliga leader, with Shettar, the Rural Development Minister.
Senior party leaders Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh, appointed as observers for the election of the new leader, are expected to reach Bangalore tomorrow.
Announcing the change of guard, BJP President Nitin Gadkari said, "In view of the current political situation in Karnataka, Sadananda Gowda has handed over his resignation to me. In his tenure, he did good work and the performance of our government was very good.
"There were no complaints against him on grounds of corruption but keeping the party`s interest in mind, as a good party worker, he has resigned," he told reporters in Delhi.
He also announced that he has accepted Gowda`s resignation on behalf of the party.
"Our party has decided to hand over the leadership to Jagadish Shettar," Gadkari said.
Asked if Deputy Chief Ministers would also be appointed by the party as was reported earlier, Gadkari said no such decision has been taken on this issue.
With the Assembly elections just 10 months away, the BJP central leadership realised that to put up a "good show", it will have to fight under the leadership of Yeddyurappa, whom many see as the undisputed leader of the Lingayat community which has always voted for the party, BJP sources said.
Shettar will stake his claim to form the government after
Gowda formally submits his resignation to Karnataka Governor H R Bhardwaj in the next couple of days, the sources said.
He will be the third Chief Minister in the present BJP government which came to power in 2008. Yeddyurappa, who led the party to victory then, had to step down after he was indicted by the Lokayukta in a graft case. Gowda had taken over from him in August last year.
For Shettar, political life has come a full circle in less than a year. In August last year, he lost the contest for Chief Ministership to Gowda, also hand-picked by Yeddyurappa.
Though Gadkari did not specify the new role of Gowda and maintained his services will be used both at the state and the national level, it is likely that he will be given a Rajya Sabha ticket.
Gowda himself is reportedly not keen on becoming Karnataka unit chief, a post he has held in the past, party sources in Bangalore said.
Gadkari asked the party unit in Karnataka to work unitedly and give a good result in the Assembly elections. But with the party remaining a divided house in the southern state, it is unclear how long this peace will last.
Interestingly, when Gadkari made the announcement about Gowda`s resignation, the outgoing chief minister was not by his side. Gowda exited from a backdoor at Gadkari`s residence after submitting his resignation to the party chief.
Gadkari was all praise for Gowda, saying he had provided a "good and clean" administration to Karnataka in the 11 months that he was at the helm of affairs.
On his part, Gowda did not show any resentment at being asked to put in his papers, saying he was an "obedient soldier" of the party.
"The verdict given by the central leadership has been whole-heartedly accepted by me. I will be a loyal worker of the party. I would like to see that the remaining period of my party`s administrative time is good enough. The incoming Chief Minister will get all sort of cooperation from me," he said.
BJP`s decision was slammed by the Congress which dubbed it as a "cosmetic change" and a "victory of corruption". BJP ally JD(U) said the decision was aimed at keeping the BJP vote base intact and the flock together ahead of the Presidential poll.