Former Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Jagadish Shettar, who has rebelled against the party for denying him the ticket for the Assembly elections, not only tendered his resignation as a legislator on Sunday but also formally met senior Congress leaders to clear the decks for his entry into that party.
The Congress is said to be keen to include Mr. Shettar into its fold to send a clear message that the BJP has not shown due respect to leaders from the Lingayat community that has been its main support base. Already, another Lingayat leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi has quit the BJP and joined the Congress after being denied ticket from Athani.
Sources said that senior Lingayat leaders in the Congress --- former Ministers Shamanur Shivashankarappa and M.B. Patil --- are involved in getting Mr. Shettar to the Congress. Incidentally, Mr. Shettar’s son is married to Mr. Shivashankarappa’s granddaughter while Mr. Shivashankarappa’s another granddaughter is engaged to Mr. Patil’s son.
Late on Sunday night, AICC general secretary Randeep Surjewala and Mr. Patil met Mr. Shettar at the residence of Mr. Shivashankarappa’s son S.S. Ganesh in Bengaluru to discuss his entry.
Earlier in the day, the 67-year-old Mr. Shettar, who is a six-time MLA, met Speaker Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri at the latter’s residence in Sirsi and submitted his resignation as MLA. He told presspersons that he had decided to quit the BJP. “There is no looking back. I will not reconsider my decision,” the former Chief Minister said.
The BJP high command had rushed emissaries, including Karnataka poll in-charge Dharmendra Pradhan, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, and Union Minister Pralhad Joshi to Mr. Shettar’s house to placate him. However, their attempts to convince him to retire from the poll fray to make way for others did not succeed.
Soon after the party sensed that Mr. Shettar was determined to quit the BJP and join the Congress, the BJP roped in veteran leader B.S. Yediyurappa to lash out at him.
Mr. Yediyurappa said that the party had offered to give ticket to a member of Mr. Shettar’s family and promised to give him some other post. But Mr. Shettar had declined the offer.
Reacting sharply to this, Mr. Shettar maintained that Mr. Yediyurappa had been pressured by the party to attack him.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior leaders like Amit Shah do not know what is happening on the ground. It seems as if some local leaders do not want the BJP to come back to power. They are misleading the national leaders,” Mr. Shettar said.