The BJP disrespected people who elected me: Jagadish Shettar

The former Karnataka Chief Minister alleges that the BJP wants a government without dependence on Lingayats, and asserts that he will be in active politics for another 10 years

Updated - January 25, 2024 05:03 pm IST

Published - May 02, 2023 05:28 pm IST - HUBBALLI

Former Karnataka CM Jagadish Shettar. File

Former Karnataka CM Jagadish Shettar. File | Photo Credit: PTI

Former Chief Minister of Karnataka Jagadish Shettar, who has also served previously as Speaker, Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Karnataka president, and as a Minister in the State Cabinet, has now caught the attention of the nation for defying the party’s diktat to retire from active politics. Hailing from a family that has been associated with the Jan Sangh for a long time, Mr. Shettar delivered a shock to the BJP high command by rebelling against the saffron party. The senior Lingayat leader’s decision to quit the BJP and join the Congress party may impact the political equations in the Kittur Karnataka region. In an interview to The Hindu, Mr. Shettar delineated the reasons for his decision. Excerpts:

Also read: Former Karnataka CM Jagadish Shettar quits Congress, returns to BJP

You have long been associated with the BJP. Why the shift to the Congress?

I have been working for strengthening the party in the State, particularly in the north Karnataka region, for the last 30 years. I have not only strengthened the party but also won the elections six times in a row with a considerable margin of about 25,000 votes. I wanted to contest the election again and had begun preparations. But at the last moment, the party’s Karnataka-in-charge called me over telephone to convey that I have been denied ticket. He told me to issue a press release as per the draft given by them saying that I am retiring from active politics. I asked them the reason for the party’s decision. I sought to know whether it was because of my age or any negative survey report, any scam or any corruption or criminal charges.  But there was no answer. The party’s national president, J.P. Nadda, also did not give answers to my questions. I was hurt, my self-respect was hurt. They not only hurt my self-respect, but also showed disrespect to the people who elected me six times in a row. So I decided to quit. This fight is for my self-respect.

Do you mean to say you were ready to quit the party had they followed due process before asking you to quit?

Yes, I would have readily agreed if they had treated me with respect and conveyed to me the decision of the party in advance. They say party is first and individuals come next. But in the process of issuing tickets, one individual’s choice, that is, party’s national organising secretary B.L. Santosh’s [choice], came first and not that of the party. Mr. Santosh’s intention was to get party ticket to his ‘disciple’ Mahesh Tenginakai and he succeeded in getting it done, keeping the high command in the dark.

Watch | ‘My decision to quit BJP will affect the party in at least 20-22 seats,’ says Jagadish Shettar

Does Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai see you as contender for the CM’s post?  Was that the reason for the denial of ticket to you?

Certainly, there are many aspirants for the CM’s post, including Mr. Bommai, Union Minister Pralhad Joshi, Mr. Santosh himself, and others. And as I am the senior-most Lingayat leader after former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, they saw me as a potential threat. In fact, I told them that I will give it in writing on bond paper that I will not aspire for the post but work as an MLA. However, it was also not considered.

What will happen to your association with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) after shifting to the Congress?

I have been associated with RSS for long. But after joining Congress, my association with RSS as an organisation will discontinue. However, my personal relation with RSS leaders will continue.

There is an allegation is that the Congress ill-treats Lingayat leaders and the same will happen to you.

I don’t agree. Congress has fielded close to 50 Lingayat leaders. During the Congress government, leaders like M.B. Patil were given important portfolios. In fact, the hidden agenda of BJP is to form a government without any dependence on Lingayats. This is the thinking that is being nourished in BJP.

What will be the impact of your quitting BJP?

My decision to quit the BJP will affect the party in at least 20-22 seats. In several districts, already Lingayat leaders have followed my path to join the Congress.

Is there any pressure on your followers to not support you?

Yes. Some of the municipal councillors have been forced to stay back. Although they are physically with BJP, they are mentally with me. I don’t have multi-crore revenue, so I am not afraid of any IT (Income Tax) raid or ED (Enforcement Directorate) raid.

Is it a do or die situation for you in present election?

I don’t think it is a do or die situation. I will be in active politics for another 10 years.

What will be your position in the Congress be now? What is your assessment of the election?

I have joined Congress as a common worker and have not sought any position. I will continue to work as a worker and I believe things are improving for Congress and it will form the next government.

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