Disappointed Shettar blames BL Santosh for BJP exit; confident of 7th term

Shettar highlights BJP’s apathy towards Lingayat leaders, corruption, inflation, and mistreatment meted out to him.

HUBBALI-DHARWAD | Updated: 09 May, 2023 1:03 pm IST

The New Indian Assistant Editor Urvashi Khona caught up with former Karnataka chief minister and long-time BJP leader Jagadish Shettar for a candid chat. A senior leader of the powerful Lingayat community, Shettar is seeking re-election from his traditional Hubbali-Dharwad Central seat for the seventh time – on Congress ticket this time. He opened on a range of topics including his departure from the BJP, his poll prospects, and Congress’ proposed ban on Bajrang Dal. Edited excerpts:

Urvashi KhonaYou recently joined the Congress from the BJP. How is your campaign going on? Because this election, being out of the BJP for the first time, is totally different for you.

Jagadish Shettar: You used the word “jumped,” which is not suitable in this case. I did not want to leave the party, but I was forced to. I quit the BJP because of mistreatment and bad behavior of (some) party leaders of the state unit. My self-respect was hurt.

I spent 30 years in the BJP, during which I made a lot of efforts to establish the party, particularly in North Karnataka. Such mistreatment meted out to me has damaged my reputation and respect. Hence, I decided to join the Congress, which is a national party, with pain in my heart.

Urvashi Khona: Your report is very strong. Now that you are in the Congress, what do you tell voters to seek their support?

Jagadish Shettar: The insult of a senior party leader like me is already in the minds of the people. It has also hurt their self-respect because they treated me with love and affection and sent me to the Assembly for 30 years consecutively. They wonder what the possible reason could be behind denying the ticket to Jagadish Shettar. What is the reason? Are there any allegations of corruption against me? Are there any (sex) CDs of me? Do I have any criminal background? Nothing. I have a clean image. BJP should answer why they denied the ticket to me. So far, no one from the BJP has offered any explanation.

Urvashi Khona: When I walked into your residence, I saw your portraits with (former PM) Atal Bihari Vajpayee and (former Karnataka CM) BS Yediyurappa still hanging on the walls. Do you still feel connected to the BJP and the RSS?

Jagadish Shettar: I work for the public. They remember the works I carried out in Hubbali-Dharwad. They want Jagadish Shettar as MLA for the seventh time. They continue to love me, no matter in which party I am.

A portrait showing Shettar in conversation with late PM Atal Bihar Vajpayee hangs on the walls of his residence in Keshavpura in Hubbali-Dharwad. (TNI photo by Sumit Kumar)

Urvashi Khona: You say that the BJP has ditched you while the BJP maintains that you ditched them.

Jagadish Shettar: It’s normal. They will naturally say it. But I want to ask a simple question: what is the reason behind denying me the ticket? Please tell me what the reason is, and I’ll accept everything. Unnecessarily launching an IT propaganda against me is not going to work.

Urvashi Khona: You were in the BJP throughout your life, and now you switched to the Congress against which you ran campaigns all these years. Did you ever imagine that such a situation would arise?

Jagadish Shettar: These circumstances have been created by the BJP. There are some people with vested interests who have kept the state BJP unit in their clutches. (BJP’s national general secretary) BL Santosh is one of them.

Urvashi Khona: Like you, around a dozen sitting BJP MLAs have been denied tickets in this election. How are people responding?

Jagadish Shettar: So many people have already left the party because of the mishandling of the election process in Karnataka. So many Lingayat leaders from the BJP are joining Congress because of the ill-treatment they were meted out with. It will negatively impact BJP’s prospects on 20-30 seats. The state BJP unit is collapsing.

Urvashi Khona: You are a senior leader of the powerful Lingayat community. What will be the impact of this election?

Jagadish Shettar: The alleged mistreatment of Lingayat leaders has hurt the Lingayat people in Karnataka, particularly in North Karnataka. In every district and taluk, BJP leaders are joining the Congress. This will affect at least 20-30 constituencies.

Urvashi Khona: How do you view the proposed ban on Bajrang Dal in the Congress manifesto?

Jagadish Shettar: I have already answered this several times. Only the central government has the power to ban any organization. There are so many good things in the manifesto. People should focus on that.

Urvashi Khona: What is your view on the BJP’s manifesto with a galore of freebies, given that they once opposed freebies?

Jagadish Shettar: Yes, they opposed freebies, but now they are promising doles in Karnataka. They were once against freebies. They had set an age limit for leaders to contest elections, but that too has been violated. People with a criminal background have been given tickets. Six ministers who have (sex) CDs against them in the public domain have been given tickets. In all this, where is the BJP’s philosophy left? They opposed dynastic politics, but they have given tickets to so many people.

Urvashi Khona: What is the mood among the Lingayat community in this election?

Jagadish Shettar: People from the Lingayat community are sympathetic towards Congress.

Urvashi Khona: What issues do you raise when you address a crowd?

Jagadish Shettar: Mistreatment of Lingayat leaders, misgovernance, price rise, and corruption. I also tell people that the state BJP is in the clutches of certain people.

Urvashi Khona: What will you do for Hubli-Dharwad if you win again?

Jagadish Shettar: I have already brought many projects here. Development is ongoing, and some work is underway. I will bring more projects.

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