Former Karnataka chief minister Jagadish Shettar, who had switched over from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to the Congress ahead of the state assembly elections last year, rejoined his old party on Thursday ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha polls, citing his long association with the saffron party.
The senior Lingayat leader was welcomed in the BJP fold by former Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa, state party chief BY Vijayendra, Union ministers Bhupender Yadav and Rajeev Chandrasekhar at the party headquarters in New Delhi.
“The party [BJP] gave me a lot of responsibilities in the past. Due to some issues, I went to the Congress party. In the last eight to nine months, there were a lot of discussions. Also, BJP workers asked me to come back to the party,” Shettar said after formally rejoining the BJP. “Yediyurappa ji and Vijayendra ji also wanted me to come back to the BJP. I am rejoining the party with the belief that Narendra Modi ji has to become the prime minister again.”
The 68-year-old acknowledged that he received respectful treatment from the Congress during his brief stay, but thanked BJP leaders and workers for “persuading” him to return to his old party.
Shettar (68), a six-term former legislator from Hubli-Dharwad Central constituency, had quit the BJP on April 16 last year in the run-up to the assembly polls after being denied a party ticket, saying he felt “humiliated” by the party he served for “more than 30 years”. Subsequently, he joined the Congress and contested the assembly polls from the same constituency. However, he lost to BJP’s Mahesh Tenginkai even when the Congress swept the state polls. He was later sent to the legislative council by the Congress.
On the return of his fellow community leader to the BJP, Yediyurappa, the tallest Lingayat leader in the southern state, said there was a demand from BJP workers to bring Shettar back to the party. “On Thursday morning, Shettar, Vijayendra and I met [Union home minister] Amit Shah, who happily welcomed him into the party and Shettar joined the BJP,” Yediyurappa said. “Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, it gives us strength.”
The Congress, meanwhile, said the senior leader has “broke” the trust of the party.
“I had spoken to him on Wednesday morning as well. He told me he would not leave and that the Congress party had given him a second chance in politics,” senior Congress leader and Karnataka deputy chief minister DK Shivakumar said. “…We trusted him, but it has come to light that he has broken that trust.”
When asked for his comment on the development, chief minister Siddaramaiah told reporters: “Shettar quit the BJP citing disrespect to his leadership and for being denied the party ticket in the Assembly elections. He joined the Congress. A ticket was given to him to contest from Hubballi, but he lost the election. Nevertheless, the party made him an MLC. No injustice was done to Shettar in the Congress. He was treated respectfully.”