Bengaluru: Is history repeating itself? This is the moot question dogging the people of Karnataka when BJP heavyweight Jagadish Shettar said goodbye to the saffron party, and joined the Congress after he was denied a ticket to contest from Hubballi-Dharwad Central constituency, which he kept it for himself since 1994.
Twenty-four years back, the situation of BJP leader BB Shivappa, who built the party along with BS Yediyurappa and others, is similar to that of Shettar’s in the present day.
Shettar has been complaining about the party humiliating him by not giving him a ticket, Shivappa did the same after the party chose Shettar to become the Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly in 1999, ignoring Shivappa as Yediyurappa and KS Eshwarappa had lost the assembly election.
This angered Shivappa’s supporters who pelted stones at the newly-inaugurated BJP office in the city where the process of selection of LoP was held.
This unruly behaviour of his supporters cost Shivappa dearly, and was expelled from the party, prompting him to join the Congress.
Shivappa asked similar questions as Shettar is asking today before joining the Congress. Shivappa had asked why the party overlooked his seniority and the distinction of building the party step by step.
Interestingly, both the leaders belong to the dominant Lingayat community. Shivappa had then publicly blamed Yediyurappa, who had lost the assembly election, and Ananth Kumar for denying the coveted post, and now Shettar is blaming a few leaders in the state party unit.
Shivappa later returned to the BJP fold, but nursed the regret of missing out on being the Leader of the Opposition until his death in 2017.
Meanwhile, BJP insiders claim that the exit of Shettar will not have any bearing on the party because the Hubballi-Dharwad Central constituency has been the fortress of the BJP since 1994.
They also claim that Shettar’s political influence is confined to Hubballi, though the Congress is building up an anti-Lingayat attitude of the BJP.
In an immediate move, National BJP President JP Nadda is visiting Hubballi today to stymie Shettar’s bid to woo prominent BJP workers and office-bearers.
The Hubballi-Dharwad Central constituency is a BJP bastion. From 1957 when the first elections were held there, it had been a Congress bastion for four elections. Then the Janata Party made it its fortress. In 1989, the seat was won again by the Congress. But since 1994, it has been with the BJP.
Interestingly, this constituency has produced two chief ministers. In 1998, Janata Party’s SR Bommai became the chief minister, and in 2012, BJP’s Shettar became.