BJP latest: Gowda out, Shettar in

Unable to resist the pressure from the party's Lingayat faction led by BS Yeddyurappa, the BJP is learnt to have decided on Saturday to replace Karnataka Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda with Jagadish Shettar. The change of guard comes less than a year before assembly elections in the state, giving Karnataka its third BJP chief minister since the party won power in 2008.

The BJP core group, which met at party president Nitin Gadkari's house on Saturday, agreed in-principle to elevate Shettar, 56, currently the rural development minister, to the top job, party sources said.

While Shettar will take charge in Karnataka after the legislature party formally elects him as the leader, either on Monday or Tuesday, the new CM is likely to appoint two deputy chief ministers, according to the formula worked out by the party leadership.

The party leadership is learnt to have decided to induct state unit chief KS Eshwarappa, leader of OBC Kuruba community, and Home Minister R Ashoka, belonging to the Vokkaliga community, as deputy chief ministers.

A formal announcement of the decisions is expected on Sunday after Gowda meets Gadkari, who was away from the Capital on Saturday evening. "After the chief minister meets the party president, whatever the party's core group and the parliamentary board has discussed and decided, after consultations with the chief minister, will be announced tomorrow morning," senior party leader Arun Jaitley told reporters.

As part of a plan to rehabilitate Gowda, the outgoing chief minister has been offered chairmanship of the state's legislative council or Rajya Sabha membership. Gowda is likely to indicate his preference to Gadkari on Sunday.

While Eshwarappa's induction into the government will vacate the state unit presidentship, the party may consider appointing Gowda as state unit chief if Gowda rejected the first two options presented to him, sources said.

Gowda, who was summoned to Delhi for final consultations on Saturday, met party veteran LK Advani, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, and her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley.

"I have said whatever decision the central leadership takes, I am prepared to accept. That means if they ask me to quit the post, I am prepared. If they ask me to continue, I will continue.I want to impress upon my leaders that an immediate decision should be taken and whatever it may be, the administration should go on smoothly," Gowda said after landing in Delhi, underlining the need for clarity in the government when the state is reeling under a drought.

"Shettar is a very good friend of mine. He is more senior and more experienced. I will always give him full cooperation and if I want to give any suggestion for the betterment (of administration), I will personally visit him and give my suggestions," Gowda said

While the party's core group had earlier decided to address the Karnataka crisis after the Presidential poll on July 19, it had to change its mind in the wake of the forthcoming monsoon session of the state assembly where the vote-on-account presented in March has to be approved.

While the BJP would like to present the change of leadership as a smooth internal affair, the move is clearly seen as succumbing to pressure from the Lingayat faction demanding Lingayat supremacy ahead of the assembly election.

Gowda had taken over as chief minister in August last year after state Lokayukta Santosh Hegde's report on illegal mining severely indicted Yeddyurappa.

However, Yeddyurappa, considered the party's "tallest leader" in the state, prevailed on the party leadership then to get a person of his choice - Sadananda Gowda - as his successor.

But subsequently, relations between Gowda and Yeddyurappa soured, with Yeddyurappa's loyalists accusing Gowda of playing into the hands of the opposition Janata Dal (S), led by HD Deve Gowda. Nine ministers loyal to Yeddyurappa resigned late last month and set a deadline of June 30 to replace Gowda. Yeddyurappa, this time, pressed for installing Shettar as chief minister.

However, the central leadership, which was busy charting the party's strategy for the Presidential election, bought time and got the rebel ministers to withdraw their resignations by promising them a "political solution" soon.

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