By V.S. Karnic, IANS,
Bangalore: Jagadish Shettar, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) third chief minister in four years in Karnataka, has risen from the ranks of the RSS and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
Shettar, 56, hails from north Karnataka and belongs to the politically powerful Lingayat community, which is generally believed to be backing the BJP since the 1990s after feeling neglected by the Congress.
The community has a large presence in northern Karnataka.
Ironically, Shettar’s caste that has now propelled him to the top post went against him a year back when BJP’s first chief minister in the state, B.S. Yeddyurappa, was forced to quit over corruption charges.
Yeddyurappa is also a Lingayat, the caste group that makes up for 17 percent of Karnataka’s 65 million population.
Fearing Shettar may emerge as a rival power centre, Yeddyurappa scuttled his bid and insisted that Gowda, a Vokkaliga, another politically influential caste group, should succeed him.
In May 2008, when Yeddyurappa took over as chief minister, he had refused to take Shettar in the cabinet and forced him to accept the speaker’s post.
Shettar reluctantly took up the job. But after the first rebellion against Yeddyurappa led by mining barons the Reddy brothers, who projected Shettar as the chief minister, Yeddyurappa bought peace with him by taking him into the cabinet in 2009.
Since then, he has handled the rural development and panchayati raj portfolio.
Shettar, a commerce and law graduate and an advocate for over 20 years, is a four time assembly member and comes from a family with strong ties to the BJP and its earlier avatar, the Jan Sangh.
His father, Shivappa Shivamurthappa Shettar, was the mayor of the Hubli Dharwad city corporation in north Karnataka, the first Jan Sangh mayor in south India. He was also an advocate.
Born Dec 17, 1955, in Kerur village in Bagalokot district, Jagadish Shettar was educated in Hubli in Dharwad district, about 400 km north of Bangalore.
Hubli and Dharwad are twin cities, 20 km apart. While Dharwad is the headquarters of the district administration and a centre of education with two universities, Hubli is a major commercial centre.
Shettar was first elected to the assembly in 1994 from the Hubli rural constituency. He has retained the seat since then.
He is married to Shilpa. The couple has two sons, Prashant and Sankalp.
Fortune is smiling on Shettar because Yeddyurappa has come a full circle to bank on him after falling out with Gowda.
Yeddyurappa claims that Gowda had agreed to quit six months after taking over to make way for him.
He also claims that BJP president Nitin Gadkari had promised to bring him back as chief minister if the court cleared him of mining bribery charges.
Though the high court quashed the Lokayukta (ombudsman) report indicting him for bribery in an illegal mining scam, the Supreme Court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the charges, putting paid to Yeddyurapa’s chances of regaining the chief minister’s chair.
With several other corruption and illegal land deals cases against him also piling up, the BJP central leaders were reluctant to make him the chief minister again.
An upset Yeddyurappa launched a strident campaign to oust Gowda.
Shettar will have a very short term now as the assembly’s term ends in May next year.
If the polls are advanced to December, as is widely speculated, Shettar may have time just to settle down in the chair before seeking another mandate.