Jockeying for power in Karnataka delays leadership change
Bangalore, July 10 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) hopes for a smooth leadership change in Karnataka were dashed Tuesday as supporters of outgoing chief minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda insisted that he be named state party president before he vacates the chair for Jagadish Shettar.
They were also demanding that incumbent state unit head K.S. Eshwarappa be named deputy chief minister ahead of the legislature wing meeting to formally elect Shettar, now rural development minister, as its leader to allow him to stake claim to form the new government.
The insistence by over 45 of the BJP's 120 lawmakers in the 225-member assembly, delayed the start of the legislature wing meeting scheduled for 11 a.m. at an upscale hotel, a stone's throw from the Vidhana Soudha, the state secretariat and the seat of power.
While supporters of Shettar, who was propped by BJP's first chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, trooped into the hotel for the meeting, Gowda and his supporters stayed at his official residence, about a kilometre away, waiting for party central observers Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh to accept their demand.
Lawmakers backing Gowda told IANS that their demand was to ensure social justice, a reference to adequate representation to various caste groups, in the party as well as the government.
Requesting anonymity, they said perception had spread that the BJP had buckled to pressure from the Lingayat caste as both Yeddyurappa and Shettar belong to it and replaced Gowda, who is a Vokkaliga, another caste group.
Lingayats, making up 17 percent of the state's 65 million population, and Vokkaligas, with around 16 percent, have dominated the state politics for a long time.
The caste divisions in the state appeared to be taking a serious turn as hundreds of Vokkaligas took out a rally in Bangalore and several other places in the state Monday re protesting the move to replace Gowda.
He took over just 11 months ago from Yeddyurappa, who was forced to quit over mining bribery charges last July.
Gowda, who gave his resignation letter to BJP president Nitin Gadkari in New Delhi Sunday enabling him to announce that Shettar will be the new chief minister, is yet to submit the quit letter to Governor H. R. Bhardwaj.
Jaitley and Rajnath Singh came here late Monday to oversee the legislature wing meeting.
BJP general secretary in charge of Karnataka affairs Dharmendra Pradhan arrived here Monday morning to stitch the loose ends. But Tuesday's developments show that major hurdles remain to be crossed to end the mess that has plagued the party since it came to power for the first time in the state in May 2008.
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