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The five labours of a BJP Hercules

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By AJAY SUKUMARAN in Bangalore
  • Published 18.11.09

Bangalore, Nov. 17: The man who performed the Herculean feat of getting the BJP to power in the south is now carrying out, like the Greek hero, the tasks ordered to keep his government intact.

Having settled for a truce with dissident MLAs led by the Reddy brothers of Bellary, Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa today made space in his cabinet for arch-rival Jagdish Shettar, who resigned as Assembly Speaker yesterday.

But unlike Hercules, whose labours such as slaying the nine-headed Hydra, were a test of his strength, Yeddyurappa’s tasks are seen as giving the rebels more muscle. A senior party leader, however, chose to describe it as “the chief minister learning to be more accommodating”. “Earlier, he was seen to be concentrating power,” the leader said.

Shettar — whom the oust-Yeddyurappa campaign rallied around as a possible chief ministerial candidate — was sworn in as minister today, in keeping with the terms of the truce brokered by the BJP central leadership.

Last week, Yeddyurappa dropped his confidante and the lone woman in his cabinet, Shobha Karandlaje, transferred his principal secretary V.P. Baligar, whose style of functioning the dissidents resented, and reversed the transfers of some officials in Bellary district that didn’t suit the Reddy brothers, Karunakara and Janardhan, who are ministers and mine owners.

The BJP today announced a co-ordination committee of 14 members to oversee Karnataka affairs.

Apart from the chief minister, BJP state president D.V. Sadananda Gowda and parliamentarian Ananth Kumar, the list includes Karunakara Reddy and Shettar among other ministers, and two RSS organising secretaries, V. Satish and Santosh.

The announcement of the committee meant Yeddyurappa had performed the five “labours” demanded of him.

The dissenters say the panel will ensure Yeddyurappa’s wings are clipped. Not so, insist the chief minister’s loyalists. “Earlier also, we had a co-ordination committee. This is just a redrawing of the committee,” said a leader close to Yeddyurappa.

Shobha’s removal had been a key demand of some legislators who accused her of being a “super CM” through whom files were routed.

The 42-year-old first came into the limelight in 2006 when she was elected member of the legislative council, though she was hardly a decade old in politics then.

But it was her proximity to mentor Yeddyurappa that came to be noticed when the BJP veteran catapulted into the political centre stage as deputy chief minister in 2006.

The Yeddyurappa hand was seen when she was given a party ticket to contest Assembly elections in 2008 from Yeshwanthpur in Bangalore city. She won despite being a virtual stranger to the area. Apart from being given an important portfolio, rural development and panchayati raj, Shobha was also placed in charge of Mysore district and made a spokesperson for cabinet decisions.

“From the beginning, they (dissidents) were targeting her,” said one minister, adding that it could have been “a case of shadow-boxing”.

After resigning last Monday, Shobha said she didn’t know the reason for her ouster. “Today there is a feeling that politics should be a male-dominated space. But though I am a woman, I have been able to accomplish a lot,” she said.

For Shettar, it will be a return to active politics. The former Speaker, seen as a prominent leader in north Karnataka where the BJP has a strong following, was a minister in the BJP-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government.