Bangalore(PTI): In the third leadership change in four years of BJP rule hit by intra-party feud, Jagadish Shivappa Shettar was today sworn in at the head of a 34-member ministry with two deputy chief ministers for the first time in Karnataka’s history.
In a please-all exercise aimed at putting a lid on bitter factionalism that even threatened the very existence of the BJP’s first-ever government in the south, state party unit chief K S Eshwarappa and R Ashok were made deputy chief ministers.
56-year-old Shettar, propped by foe-turned-friend and party strongman in the state B S Yeddyurappa, took over the baton from D V Sadananda Gowda, who bowed out of office after the central leadership yielded to pressure from the rebel group.
Governor H R Bhardwaj administered oath of office and secrecy to Shettar, who assumed office as the third chief Minister of the BJP which came to power in 2008.
Gowda, whose shaky tenure ended in mere 11 months, had succeeded Yeddyurappa after the latter was forced to quit by the party leadership after lokayukta report on illegal mining indicted him last year.
BJP high command, which finalised the list of Ministers last night, has let Shettar retain 21 members of the Gowda Ministry and cleared the names of 11 others, facilitating a full-fledged ministry with the strength touching the Constitutional limit of 34 ministers for the state.
In an attempt to curb a possible rebellion and keeping in mind the assembly elections that are just ten months away, the BJP central leadership tried to accommodate aspirants from both Yeddyurappa and Gowda factions.
Caste divide between Lingayats to which Yeddyurappa and Shettar belong to and Vokkalaigas from which community Sadananda Gowda hails manifested in full form culminating in the leadership change.
Ashok belongs to the Vokaliga community and Eshwarappa the backward Kuruba caste. The BJP counts the Lingayats, the dominant community, as its vote base. Vokkaligas and Kurubas form the second and third largest groups respectively.
“We will try to give an honest, transparent and corruption-free government,” Shettar told reporters reflecting the task cut out for him to refurbish the image of BJP dented by corruption charges against several of its leaders who are battling court cases.
Shettar, who hails from backward North Karnataka region, also said his government would give top priority to tackling the severe drought faced in many districts and rural areas and step-up relief works.
“We will take every body into confidence and our objective is to give good governance by working together,” said Shettar, flanked by Eshwarappa and Ashoka, after the customary cabinet meeting.
The BJP has not entertained the claim by G Karunakara Reddy, the brother of jailed mining baron G Janardhana Reddy, who had aspired to return to the ministry, but has given representation to Bellary district by inducting Anand Singh.
There is no representation to minority community in the ministry as BJP has no elected representative from this section.
Yeddyurappa, Sadananda Gowda, BJP National General Secretary H N Anantkumar were present at the swearing-in.
Thousands of followers of Shettar watched the swearing in ceremony on big television screens erected at the Palace Grounds.
Others who took oath are Govind M Karjol, S Suresh Kumar, C M Udasi, Vishveshwara Hegde Kageri, Umesh V Katti, Basavaraja Bommai, Murugesh R Nirani, V Somanna, Shobha Karandlaje, B N Bache Gowda, M P Renukacharya, C P Yogeeshwara, S A Ravindranatha, Revu Naik Belamagi, Balachandra Jarkiholi, S A Ramadass, Anand Asnotikar, A Narayanaswamy, Raju Gowda alias Narasimha Nayak and Varthur Prakash.
Sogadu Shivanna, C T Ravi, D N Jeevaraja, S K Bellubbi, Aravind Limbavali, B J Puttaswamy, Anand Singh, Kalakappa Gurushantappa Bandi, Sunil Vallyapure, Kota Srinivasa Poojari and Appachu Ranjan were the others sworn-in.