Bangalore, Aug 4: Lok Sabha MP D V Sadananda Gowda, a loyalist of ousted CM B S Yeddyurappa, was today sworn in as Chief Minister of Karnataka with the rebel BJP faction headed by Jagadish Shettar boycotting the ceremony bringing to fore deep divisions in the ruling party.
Soft spoken and a man with a disarming smile, 58-year-old Devaragunda Venkappa Sadananda Gowda, who was the lone Minister to be sworn in, said he will not be a proxy CM and “puppet” at the hands of any one.
“Only time will tell whether I will be a proxy CM. I am not a puppet in hands of anyone. I have independent views,” said Gowda amid suggestions by the rival camp in BJP in the state that he will be a proxy of his predecessor who had to quit in the wake of the Lokayukta report on illegal mining that indicted him.
Governor H R Bhardwaj administered the oath of office and secrecy to Gowda, who swore in the name of God, at the Raj Bhavan watched by Yeddyurappa among others. Gowda will have to become a member of either House in Karnataka within six months to continue in office.
Shettar was conspicuous by his absence but a glum-faced Ananth Kumar and the party's state unit chief K S Eshwarappa, the two leaders who propped him up against Gowda, who is Yeddyurappa's choice, were present.
Gowda drove to the residence of Yeddyurappa, and also visited Shettar, whom he defeated in a secret ballot at the BJP legislature party meeting yesterday. He sought the cooperation of MLAs who backed his opponent when they were having breakfast. The Shettar camp told him not to come under Yeddyurappa's influence.
“We appealed to him not to become a puppet and discharge his responsibilities under the stranglehold... “ Shettar camp follower and MLA, Arvind Limbavali, said. He was making a veiled reference to Yeddyurappa.
Gowda, who is the 26th CM of Karnataka, will have a term of 22 months. Elections are due in the State in May 2013. He is the BJP's second chief minister in the first state ruled by the party in the South after Yeddyurappa remained in office for 38 months.
Outgoing Home and Transport Minister R Ashoka, part of the Shettar-Ananth faction, said Shettar has rejected Deputy Chief Minister's post, and there was no question of accepting the offer.
In sharp contrast, Yeddyurappa's camp was jubilant as he appeared relaxed and shared some light moments with MLAs supporting him and repeatedly flashed the “victory” sign. Gowda, MP from Udupi-Chikmagalur, has a tough task on hand to put the divided party in order and bring administration on rails.
Yeddyurappa said he is an “ordinary worker of the BJP” and indicated that Gowda would have a free hand.
Noting that he was being projected as “super Chief Minister” in some quarters, Yeddyurappa said: “He (Gowda) has the strength to work independently. I will not interfere in any issue”.
Gowda today said development and good governance would be the focus of his government.
Addressing his maiden press conference after taking oath as 26th Chief Minister of the state, he lauded the previous Yeddyurappa Government for giving a new direction to developmental programmes and said he would adopt its model.
Gowda said he would strive to achieve further progress by consolidating the development which had already been accomplished.
“I have resolved to make dedicated efforts to build the state with the active support and cooperation of all the legislators and leaders of my party as well as the opposition parties”, he said.
When asked whether he would be acting as per Yeddyurappa's directions, Gowda said “I have taken oath as the Chief Minister today. Wait for a month, you will know the results”.
On cabinet formation, he said he would consult the central leadership, the state legislators and undertake the exercise, which will be “unanimous and acceptable to all” in the next three to four days.
Recalling the various challenges and problems he had faced in his four-year tenure as the BJP state unit President, Gowda expressed confidence that he would be able to tackle the current problems in a similar manner.
To a question on Yeddyurappa's statement that he would come back as Chief Minister after six months, Gowda said there were several instances where Chief Ministers had resigned. “There is nothing wrong to aspire to come back to the post.”
To a query whether he would be a “puppet” in the hands of Yeddyurappa, Gowda said “wait for a month. Time alone will provide answers to your queries”.
When asked whether the government would accept the Lokayukta report which indicted Yeddyurappa leading to his exit, the Chief Minister said “I have not studied the report. I have taken over only today”.
To a query the ever-smiling Gowda said, “I have been smiling for the past 50 years. I am confident that the next two years will definitely be not difficult for me”.
“In all these years, the truth I have realised is that through smile, confidence and trust any problem can be resolved,” Gowda said.
He promised to give a “people-friendly, development focused government without giving room for any conflict and taking all into confidence”. PTI