Senior BJP leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar on Monday joined the Congress ahead of the May 10 Assembly elections in the State. Minutes later, KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar handed over the ‘B’ form to contest elections from Hubballi-Dharwad Central constituency to Mr. Shettar.
Mr. Shettar has won from this constituency six times since 1994. He had won all elections on the BJP ticket. He was denied a ticket by the ruling BJP to contest the Assembly elections on May 10. For the first time, he would be contesting elections on the Congress ticket.
The 67-year-old Lingayat leader joined the Congress at the party office in Bengaluru in the presence of AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president Mr. Shivakumar and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, KPCC campaign Committee chairman M.B. Patil, and AICC general secretary K.C. Venugopal.
Soon after joining the Congress, Mr. Shettar said, “Many in Karnataka are surprised that I have joined the Congress. For the last six months, no one understood my pain. I built the BJP along with former Union Minister Ananth Kumar and former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa. I built the party in north Karnataka. The BJP had given me several positions. I discharged my responsibilities sincerely.... Believing in the Congress party’s principles, I joined the Congress now. A new chapter in my political life begins.”
Mr. Shettar lashed out at BJP leaders in Karnataka. “A few leaders are controlling the BJP in Karnataka for serving their self interest. I am not criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president J.P. Nadda. They are unaware of the developments in the BJP in Karnataka. Some leaders are above the party in Karnataka,” he said.
“I am from the Sangh Parivar and an ABVP leader. But the BJP humiliated me by denying the ticket at the last minute. The BJP leaders could have informed me a few days ago,” Mr. Shettar said.
Mr. Kharge said, “Mr. Shettar is in the RSS, but is a non-controversial man. His joining the party would help the Congress win more seats in the coming elections.”
Mr. Shettar was a practising lawyer for 20 years at the Hubballi Bar. As a BJP member, Mr. Shettar served as president of the Karnataka unit, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Minister in BJP governments, Speaker of the Assembly, and Chief Minister.
He served as a Minister in the BJP government led by former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa. When the Cabinet was dissolved after the resignation of Mr. Yediyurappa in July 2021, he announced that he would not be a part of the Basavaraj Bommai government.
The Congress is keen to send a message that the BJP has not shown due respect to leaders from the Lingayat community that has been its main support base. A few days ago, another Lingayat leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi quit the BJP and joined the Congress after being denied ticket from Athani.
Senior Lingayat leaders in the Congress — former Ministers Shamanur Shivashankarappa and M.B. Patil — persuaded Mr. Shettar to join their party, it is learnt. Mr. Shettar’s son is married to Mr. Shivashankarappa’s grand-daughter.
On Sunday, AICC general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala and Mr. Patil met Mr. Shettar at the residence of Mr. Shivashankarappa’s son S.S. Ganesh.