Bangalore: Jagadish Shettar will be the new Chief Minister of Karnataka -- the third in four years -- and will be sworn in on Thursday after he was elected leader of ruling BJP legislature party on Tuesday amid high drama over demands from warring factions before the change of guard.
The election of the 56-year-old Lingayat leader, which defused yet another crisis that gripped BJP`s first government in south India, came after some last minute muscle flexing by the outgoing Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda`s camp that delayed the legislature party meeting by at least five hours. The term of the BJP government is due to end in May 2013.
Gowda proposed the name of Shettar, currently Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister, and it was seconded by former Chief Minister and Lingayat strongman B S Yeddyurappa and state unit chief K S Eshwarappa.
Shettar will meet Governor H R Bhardwaj tomorrow to inform him about his election as legislature party leader and stake his claim to form the government.
BJP leader Rajnath Singh, the central observer for the election, said Shettar would be sworn in on July 12.
"All the 121 BJP legislators unanimously elected me as Legislature party leader. This is very important," the soft spoken Shettar said after his election. Shettar said the new government`s priority will be to tackle the drought situation.
As lobbying for Cabinet berths and key ministries gained momentum, ugly factional squabbles were at play again ahead of the meeting as Gowda and his loyalists demanded an assurance from the leadership that the state unit party presidentship would be given to him and deputy Chief Ministership to Eshwarappa.
Gowda and about 50 legislators supporting him met at his official residence "Anugraha" this morning where they decided to stay away from the legislature party meeting scheduled for 1030 hours until an assurance was given to them.
Legislators loyal to Yeddyurappa, whose campaign forced a change of guard in the state, arrived at the meeting venue and waited till Gowda and his men attended it.
Gowda, Eshwarappa and others met Rajnath Singh to put forth their demands and later came to a star hotel where the Legislature party meeting was held.
Both factions once again engaged in the numbers game,with
the Yeddyurappa group claiming support of 70 legislators and the Gowda camp about 50, giving anxious moments to Shettar with assembly polls less than a year away.
Caste polarisation in the camps also became glaringly evident during the entire drama with most Lingayat MLAs throwing their weight behind Yeddyurappa and almost the rest aligning with Gowda.
As parleys continued to defuse the eleventh hour crisis, senior leader Arun Jaitley, deputed to oversee the election, left for Delhi this evening for personal reasons, leaving the entire exercise to Rajnath Singh, who came along with him and General Secretary Dharmendra Pradhan, in charge of party affairs in Karnataka.
Singh, addressing legislators after Shettar`s election, said no decision had been taken on creating the Deputy Chief Minister`s post and it was the Chief Minister`s prerogative to decide on his ministerial team.
His remarks came in the backdrop of the Gowda faction insisting on the Deputy Chief Minister`s post and at least 20 ministerial berths to them, a demand stoutly opposed by the Yeddyurappa faction.
Thanking everyone including Yeddyurappa, Gowda and Anantkumar for his unanimous election, Shettar said his government`s top priority would be to address problems in drought hit areas.
He lauded the good governance by Yeddyurappa and Gowda and added this would ensure the party`s return to power in the next assembly elections.
Caving into pressure from the Yeddyurappa camp, the BJP central leadership on Sunday decided on a change of guard in a bid to end the leadership tussle that has troubled the BJP government.
Sadananada Gowda was allowed to rule the state for just 11 months by Yeddyurappa, who had handpicked him after he resigned as Chief Minister in July last year following his indictment by the Lokayukta report on illegal mining.