Shettar faces ministry-making hurdle

DV Sadananda Gowda Wednesday quit as Karnataka chief minister and Jagadish Shettar staked claim to form the new government as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party grappled with forming a ministry satisfactory to various factions.

High drama preceded Gowda's resignation as his supporters tried to block him from driving to Raj Bhavan to submit his quit letter to Governor HR Bhardwaj.

Several among the hundreds of supporters gathered at the chief minister's official residence Anugraha in the city centre squatted on the road to prevent Gowda from moving out.

Police had a tough time in clearing the way for the one-km drive even after Gowda appealed to his supporters to stay calm and that he would convey their views to the BJP's national leaders.

About half-an-hour after Gowda submitted the resignation letter, Shettar drove to Raj Bhavan along with state BJP chief KS Eshwarappa, party's first chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, party general secretary and Bangalore South Lok Sabha member HN Ananth Kumar to stake claim to form the new government.

A Raj Bhavan release said Bhardwaj had accepted Gowda's resignation and invited Shettar to form the new government. Shettar will be sworn in Thursday.

It is still not clear whether only he will take oath or how many will be sworn in as ministers along with him.

Gowda's supporters are insisting that the full ministry be formed at one go Thursday - that is, the chief minister and 33 ministers. Karnataka can have a 34-member ministry, including the chief minister.

They had Tuesday delayed for over five hours the meeting of the party's legislature wing to elect Shettar as its leader, insisting that Gowda be named state party chief and incumbent Eshwarappa the deputy chief minister ahead of the meet.

However, they relented after an assurance from BJP senior leaders Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh.

Consultations were on among Shettar, Yeddyurappa, Gowda, Eshwarappa, Ananth Kumar and several other party leaders to resolve contentious issues. These include whether to have one or two deputy chief ministers and whether the ministry formation should be a piece-meal affair, party sources said.

Shettar will be the third chief minister in the four years of BJP's rule in Karnataka.

Gowda is leaving the office without completing a year, the fallout of dissidence orchestrated by Yeddyurappa who was forced to quit last July over mining bribery charges. Gowda assumed office last August 4.

Shettar, 56, will have just over nine months in office as assembly elections are due next May. There is speculation they may be held this year-end along with Gujarat.

'Shettar will take oath Thursday on the lawns of Raj Bhavan. Efforts areon to swear-in some legislators as cabinet ministers. Names will be discussed and finalised by late Wednesday or early Thursday,' Eshwarappa said.
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