Yeddyurappa man promises graft-free K'taka

Jagadish Shettar Thursday took oath as the Karnataka chief minister, the Bharatiya Janata Party's [BJP] third man in the post in four years, and promised a corruption-free, transparent and honest administration.

Also sworn-in were two deputy chief ministers - K S Eshwarappa and R Ashoka - and 31 ministers, completing the ministry formation in one go to satisfy various factions in the party.

The state can have a 34-member ministry, including the chief minister, as the law limits the strength to 15 percent of the elected members of the assembly. The Karnataka assembly strength is 225, of which one is a nominated member to represent the Anglo-Indian community.

However, the BJP's plans still left many disgruntled with at least one legislator - Haladi Srinivas Shetty from the coastal area of Kundapur - breaking down at being denied a berth and his supporters shouting slogans against party leadership.

Trying to placate caste groups, the BJP, which came to power in the state for the first time in May 2008, has given Karnataka two deputy chief ministers for the first time. The BJP's caste balancing act at the top level of government has already earned its new setup a nickname - LKG regime - L standing for Lingayat, K for Kuruba [shepherd community] and G for Gowda [Vokkaliga community].

Shettar is a Lingayat, Eshwarappa belongs to Kuruba community and Ashoka to Vokkaliga caste.

Shettar and members of his ministry were administered oath of office and secrecy by Governor H R  Bhardwaj at a simple ceremony at glass house in Raj Bhavan premises.

Addressing a press meet after the first cabinet meeting, Shettar said his first priority will be to tackle drought, particularly to provide drinking water, that has hit more than half the state.

He appealed for cooperation from his ministers, party legislators and opposition parties in running the administration.

'I will strive to take all together and provide a clean, corruption-free, honest and effective governance,' Shettar said. The new chief minister's stress on corruption-free administration comes against the backdrop of various scandals that rocked the BJP's first ministry headed by B S  Yeddyurappa. He was forced to quit last July over mining charges. Besides Yeddyurappa, around 20 of 120 BJP legislators, including several ministers, are fighting cases of corruption and illegal land deals against them.

Shettar himself was Wednesday slapped with a complaint in Lokayukta [ombudsman] court alleging that he had violated rules to free 176 acres of government land on Bangalore's outskirts when he was revenue minister six years ago in the Janata Dal-Secular and BJP coalition government.

The complaint claims this caused a loss of over Rs 250 crore to the state exchequer at current market prices of the land. It does not, however, charge Shettar with gaining monetarily or otherwise from this act. Lokayukta court judge N K  Sudhindra Rao said he will decide 21 July whether the allegation in the complaint needs a probe.

Shettar denied any wrongdoing and said he will legally fight the case. Shettar succeeds Gowda, who quit Wednesday. Gowda became the chief minister 4 August last year after Yeddyurappa resigned 31 July. Gowda fell victim to the dissidence that had hit the party almost from the beginning of its maiden rule in the state in May 2008.

The ministers who took oath Thursday are: Govind Karjola, C M Udasi, Basavaraj Bommai, Vishwanath Hegde Kageri, S Suresh Kumar, Umesh Katti, Murugesh Nirani, V Somanna, Shobha Karandlaje, M P Renukacharya, C P Yogeshwar, B N Bachche Gowda, Revu Naik Belamagi, Balachandra Jarkiholi, Anand Asnotikar, S A Ramdas, A. Narayanswamy, S. A. Ravindra Nath, C T  Ravi, D N Jeevraj, Raju Gowda, S K Bellubbi, S Shivanna, Varthur Prakash, Arvind Limbavali, Anand Singh, B J Puttaswamy, Appachu Ranjan, Kalakappa Bandi, Sunil Vallyapur, and Kota Srinivas Pujari. 

Shobha Karandlaje remains the lone woman member in the ministry while Varthur Prakash is an independent supporting the BJP.
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