Karnataka Congress hit out at former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar for rejoining the BJP, terming his move as a “breach of trust” and questioning his conscience. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and state Congress President and Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar said the Congress treated Shettar with respect, after he joined the party ahead of last year’s Assembly polls, while the BJP had humiliated him by denying him the ticket to contest the elections in May.
Shettar, who rejoined his old party on Thursday, cited his long association with the BJP, and said many of his well-wishers wanted him to back in the outfit. “Jagadish Shettar had told me that he was being requested (by BJP) and workers were being sent to meet him. Yesterday morning too I spoke to him. He had told me that he would not do such a thing and will not go (to BJP), as the Congress party has given him another life in politics. Keeping his words in mind, I spoke about it Mysuru, but now I got information that he is in BJP office,” Shivakumar said.
Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru, he said the Congress party, considering Shettar as a senior leader, treated him with respect. “He (Shettar) had said that BJP is not good, he had made several statements against the BJP….Congress had trusted the senior leader, but now you (media) are showing that that trust is being breached. I have got information that he has sent his resignation (as MLC) to the Chairman of the Legislative Council. I don’t know whether he has gone or has been taken (by BJP) under any pressure..,,” he said.
Responding to Shettar’s statement that he has rejoined the BJP in the national interest, Shivakumar asked, “did he not know about national interest, when he was not given the ticket (by BJP)? Did he not know about Congress and national interest, when Congress made him MLC for five years?” Asked whether Shettar has fallen prey to any allurements, he said, “he (Shettar) has to say what allurements were given to him. I can only say that Congress treated him respectfully….all of us have conscience, he too will have conscience.”
On whether Laxman Savadi (Congress MLC, who too had joined party from BJP ahead of Assembly polls) will also go back to BJP, Shivakumar said, “no one will go, quitting the party, Shatter has gone, it’s a different matter, despite people rejecting him by a margin of 35,000 votes (in May Assembly polls), Congress treated him respectfully, rest conscience and people will decide.” Speaking to reporters at Virajpet in Kodagu district, Siddaramaiah said he was not aware of the development, but repeatedly maintained that Congress treated Shettar respectfully and that he had assured that he would not go back to BJP.
“Jagadish Shettar came to Congress stating that BJP humiliated him and did not give a ticket, we gave him a ticket as he is an ex-Chief Minister. He lost in the Assembly election from his own constituency. We then made him MLC. So no injustice or humiliation happened to him from the Congress party, we treated him respectfully,” Siddaramaiah said. Shettar joined the Congress on April 17 last year, dealing a blow to the then ruling BJP ahead of Assembly elections.
The decision to part ways with the BJP came after the 68-year-old six time MLA, a former Leader of Opposition in the Assembly and ex-Speaker, was denied ticket to contest in the Hubli-Dharwad (Central) segment, which he represented in the outgoing Lower House. The decision of Shettar, a prominent Lingayat leader from north Karnataka, to join Congress ahead of Assembly polls is one of the factors that adversely impacted the BJP’s prospects in a number of segments in the region, as it built a perception that the saffron party was neglecting Lingayat leaders, according to political observers.
Shettar, whose family has been associated with the party since Jana Sangh days, is an influential leader from its bastion of Kittur Karnataka region. He had also served as state BJP president. Shettar, who contested on a Congress ticket after the BJP denied him ticket to contest in the 2023 Assembly polls, was defeated in the Hubli-Dharwad (Central) seat by a margin of 34,289 votes, by BJP’s Mahesh Tenginakai, a debutant in electoral politics. Congress had subsequently made Shettar an MLC.