Ex- Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar re-joined the BJP Thursday, less than a year after he walked out of the party, claiming “ill treatment”, and joined the Congress. That switch also took place days before the 2023 Karnataka Assembly election, which Mr Shettar contested and lost to the BJP.
The six-time MLA’s return – signed off by Home Minister Amit Shah – took place at the party’s Delhi HQ in the presence of its Karnataka unit boss BY Vijayendra and ex-Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa.
“I am rejoining with the belief Narendra Modiji has to become PM again,” Mr Shettar, who was widely seen as a staunch follower of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological mentor, said.
READ | “Joined Congress Because Of BJP’s Ill-Treatment”: Jagadish Shettar
Visuals showed a beaming Mr Shettar meeting BJP boss JP Nadda after his ‘homecoming’; Mr Nadda draped a party scarf around his neck and, grasping his hand firmly, posed for photographs, after which the two, accompanied by Mr Yediyurappa and his son, sat down for a meeting.
Earlier today Mr Shettar claimed “some issues” led to his quitting the BJP and joining the Congress, and said, “In the last eight or nine months there were a lot of discussions. BJP workers asked me to come back…Yediyurappaji and Vijayendraji also wanted me to come back… so I am rejoining.”
Jagadish Shettar joined the Congress after he was denied a ticket to fight in last year’s Karnataka election. After his switch Mr Yediyurappa said Mr Shettar “made a mistake”. “We promised him Rajya Sabha membership and (said) we would make him Union Minister. Amit Shah himself spoke to him. I think he made a mistake leaving… we wholeheartedly supported him almost every time,” he told NDTV.
The 68-year-old Jagadish Shettar was overlooked as part of the anti-incumbency strategy of the BJP, which was then in power in the state. The strategy didn’t work – the Congress recorded a big win.
READ | In Sea Of Congress Wins, Glaring Upset For A Heavyweight
Mr Shettar, though, was not among the winners on the day. He was fielded from the Hubli-Dharwad (Central) seat but was defeated by the BJP’s Mahesh Tenginakai, who won by over 34,000 votes.
The seat was one Mr Shettar claimed in three successive Assembly elections between 2008 and 2018.
He blamed his loss on “money power and pressure tactics” and accused his BJP rival of “distributing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 (notes)” to voters. “In the last six elections I have not at all used money power… never distributed money to voters. (This is the) first time a BJP candidate distributed Rs 500-Rs 1000…”
READ | Top BJP Defector Jagadish Shettar’s Accusation After Karnataka Results
On Wednesday, as rumours swirled of Mr Shettar’s return to the BJP, the Congress’ DK Shivakumar accused the saffron party of “desperation”. “Many BJP leaders are desperately trying for the return of Shettar who is with the Congress now. This is a tell-tale sign of weakness…” he said at a Mysuru event.
“They don’t have candidates for the upcoming general elections,” Mr Shivakumar continued.
Jagadish Shettar is seen as an influential member of the powerful Lingayat community, which accounts for nearly 17 per cent of the population. This makes their support crucial for any party.
READ | Why A Chunk Of Lingayats, Traditional BJP Supporters, Voted For Congress
The Congress swept a chunk of these votes last year en route to defeating the BJP, and the latter party will be aware it needs to win back the community if it hopes to do well in the Lok Sabha election.
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