New Delhi/Bangalore: Buckling under mounting pressure from B.S. Yeddyurappa, the BJP Sunday said D.V. Sadananda Gowda was being replaced as the Karnataka chief minister by Rural Development Minister Jagadish Shettar – with barely nine months to go for state polls.
Desperate to prevent a split in the party after Yeddyurappa orchestrated a rebellion demanding Gowda be replaced, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) replaced Gowda though he has given a corruption-free administration.
The BJP’s decision evoked criticism from the Congress, while BJP ally the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) said Gowda had to be “martyred” because of the presidential polls.
Gowda was made to leave without completing a year. He took over from Yeddyurappa Aug 4 last year.
BJP chief Nitin Gadkari justified the move to remove Gowda, saying, “According to the present situation in Karnataka, he (Gowda) has told me that he is resigning from the chief minister’s post.”
“He handed me his resignation as a good party worker. We have accepted his resignation,” he told media in New Delhi.
“Keeping in mind the future of Karnataka, we have decided to give the leadership (in the state) to Jagadish Shettar,” Gadkari announced.
Yeddyurappa had quit last July over mining bribery charges.
Gadkari said the outgoing chief minister would be given an important role at the central and state levels – in an apparent attempt to ensure that Gowda doesn’t brew a revolt.
A smiling Gowda, a victim of Karnataka’s never-ending caste politics, said he had no complaints and would abide by the party decision.
The announcement of change in chief ministership led to wild celebrations in Shettar’s hometown of Hubli, about 400 km north of Bangalore, while a pall of gloom descended on most parts of coastal Karnataka from where Gowda hails.
The state BJP legislature party is to meet in Bangalore Monday to formally elect Shettar, 56, as its new leader to enable him to meet Governor H. R.Bhardwaj and stake claim to form the government.
Gadkari said party leaders Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh would go to Bangalore Monday for discussions with BJP leaders there.
Shettar would be the BJP’s third chief minister in four years in the state and would have about nine months in office as assembly elections are due May next year.
In Shimoga, about 280 km from Bangalore, state BJP chief K.S. Eshwarappa said Gowda would be given a suitable position in the party.
The decision for the leadership change in Karnataka was taken Saturday by the party’s core group.
In a strategic move, Yeddyurappa has stayed away from media glare for nearly two weeks now.
Gowda told reporters outside Karnataka Bhavan in New Delhi that he had quit as an “obedient soldier of the party”.
“…The verdict given by central leaders has been whole-heartedly accepted by me.. I will be a loyal worker in the future as well. The incoming chief minister will be extended all cooperation by me,” he said.
Gowda, who came to New Delhi Saturday evening, met party leaders L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar at Advani’s residence. He met Gadkari Sunday.
BJP sources say the party is planning to make Gowda a Rajya Sabha member. He was a Lok Sabha member before becoming chief minister.
Gadkari made it clear that the step was taken eyeing the assembly polls in Karnataka and the Lok Sabha polls of 2014, and called on all state leaders to fight unitedly.
Yeddyurappa is the leading figure of the Lingayat community in the state which makes up 17 percent of the state’s population.
Gowda was Yeddyurappa’s choice to replace him over Shettar. But after the Karnataka High Court struck down the Lokayukta report indicting him for mining bribery charges, Yeddyurappa stepped up efforts to get back as the chief minister, but Gowda failed to oblige him.
On Friday, Shettar and eight other ministers resigned from the ministry, forcing the party’s national leaders to agree to a leadership change.
The Congress Sunday termed the change in Karnataka as a “victory of corruption”.
“This is a victory of BJP’s corruption…. Corrupt people were against Gowda and BJP leaders would have been exposed,” said Congress general secretary B.K. Hariprasad.
JD-U chief Sharad Yadav said that Gowda had to be martyred because of the presidential polls.
“If the presidential polls had not been there, he would not have to resign,” he said.