Bangalore, Jul 12 (IANS) : A 32-member ministry headed by Jagadish Shettar Thursday took office in Karnataka, the third Bharatiya Janata Party government in fours years, with two deputy chief ministers for the first time in the state.
Shettar, 56, who will have a short-term in office as assembly elections are due May next, promised a corruption-free, transparent and honest administration.
The first priority, however, he told a press meet after the first cabinet meet, would be to tackle the drought, particularly drinking water shortage, affecting more than half the state.
Shettar and the ministers were administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor H. R. Bhardwaj at a simple ceremony in the glass house of Raj Bhavan. The BJP, battered by dissidence and corruption scandals ever since it came to power for the first time in the state in May 2008, completed the ministry formation in one go to satisfy various factions in the party.
The two deputy chief ministers are K.S. Eshwarappa, who is the state BJP unit chief, and R. Ashoka, who was home minister in the D.V. Sadananda Gowda ministry which quit Wednesday.
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 a legislator from the coastal area of Kundapur, Haladi Srinivas Shetty, 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 is a Vokkaliga. The new chief minister 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 BJP's first ministry headed by B.S. Yeddyurappa, who was forced to quit last July over mining bribery charges.
Besdies Yeddyurappa, around 20 of 120 BJP legislators, including several ministers, are fighting corruption and illegal land deals cases 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 when he was revenue minister six years ago in the Janata Dal-Secular-BJP coalition government.
The Lokayukta court judge N.K Sudhindra Rao said he will decide July 21 whether the allegation in the complaint needs a probe. Shettar denied wrong denying and said he will fight the case legally.
Shettar succeeds Gowda, who quit Wednesday. Gowda became the chief minister August 4 last year after Yeddyurappa resigned July 31. 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.
Bangalore: Jagadish Shettar Takes Oath with Other Ministers