In the race for the selection of an alternative leader of the State Bharatiya Janata Party, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister Jagadish Shettar seems to be leading the pack.

According to highly placed sources in the BJP, Mr. Shettar seems to be the hot choice as the party is looking at the combination of his community and regional background as one that could help retain its support base.

Mr. Shettar, a member of the dominant Lingayat community, hails from Mumbai-Karnataka region, where the party has a strong presence. The party does not want to lose its hold on the Lingayat community in the wake of its strongman and former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa being denied a leadership role following charges of corruption. It is also keen on ensuring that its tally of MLAs in the northern region does not dip sharply, especially after its own former Minister B. Sriramulu floated a new political outfit.

Another aspect that the party is looking at is of retaining some of the Lingayat members from north Karnataka — who have identified themselves in the Yeddyurappa camp — with the party. The party is of the view that Mr. Shettar can fulfil this.

But what has caused concern among party leaders is the aggressive manner in which its State president K.S. Eshwarappa has thrown his hat in the ring on Tuesday. In fact, the party was considering three options: continuing with Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, or replacing him with either Mr. Shettar or Mr. Eshwarappa. However, Mr. Eshwarappa appears to have indicated that he is a strong contender and sources say party leaders want to sort out the issue sensitively.

Yeddyurappa camp

Meanwhile, the Yeddyurappa camp too kept itself busy by holding a series of consultations ahead of party national general secretary and State in-charge Dharmendra Pradhan’s visit to Bangalore on Thursday to look into the selection of an alternative leader.

It is learnt that the party will not put the issue of selection of alternative leader into voting as it does not want to give room for another division within its organisation. The selection of the leader would be done by the central leaders — led by Opposition leader in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, who will visit the State soon — at a closed-door meeting, sources said.

Sources made it clear that selection of an alternative leader was being taken up only to improve the party’s performance in the coming Assembly elections, and not due to the demand by the Yeddyurappa camp to replace Mr. Gowda.

If Mr. Gowda is to be replaced, he is expected to be given an important political post, sources said.

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