With Shettar’s Joining, Congress Aims at Breaking Lingayat Votebank in Karnataka

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The BJP party which was upbeat about its chances after the release of first and second list of candidates is in utter shock and surprise with the unfolding of events.

BENGALURU — The Congress in Karnataka has got a shot in the arm with senior BJP leader and former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar switching over to it.

Buoyed by the development, the party has clearly set its eyes on drawing the Lingayat vote bank to its side.

Lingayat vote bank is standing firmly with BJP so far. With the joining of former D.C.M. Laxman Savadi and Shettar, both senior Lingayat leaders from the saffron party, the Congress has already started working towards it. The party is projecting that the exit of Shettar is a setback to the community.

Karnataka Congress President D.K. Shivakumar has announced that following the joining of Shettar, his followers, leaders across the state are joining the party. “I am authorising the district committees to complete the formalities of their joining at the respective places,” he said.

Opposition leader Siddaramaiah stated, in BJP, Yediyurappa was the top leader and second to him is Shettar. Yediyurappa was insulted by the BJP. He was thrown out of CM’s post. “He (Yediyurappa) wept at the time of his resignation.

After Yediyurappa, Shettar is the Lingayat community leader. Denial of ticket to Shettar is ill conceived. It has threatened his self respect, his community and his followers. “Jagadish Shettar is not confined to the north Karnataka region. He is a state-wide leader. Denial of ticket to a person like him, who does not have any allegations is a big crime by BJP,” he said.

The BJP party which was upbeat about its chances after the release of first and second list of candidates is in utter shock and surprise with the unfolding of events. BJP National General Secretary C.T. Ravi, reacting to Shettar’s exit stated that though it is a temporary setback for the party, they will face it.

Shettar had also stated that there is an attempt to finish off Lingayat leadership within BJP. Sources in Congress revealed that the party has already started projecting Shettar and Laxman Savadi as Lingayat faces of the party. Till date, Congress did not have similar mass leaders from the Lingayat community.

The Lingayat vote bank had abandoned Congress after late CM Veerendra Patil’s unceremonious dethroning in 1990. Under the leadership of Patil, a Lingayat strongman, Congress had won 178 seats out of 224 MLA seats in 1989, which is its largest victory till date.

The grand-old party is seeing the development as a golden opportunity to draw the Lingayat vote bank to its side. BJP insiders maintain that with Yediyurappa retired from electoral politics, the saffron party will face an uphill task to keep the Lingayat vote bank intact, from which it derives its core strength ahead of Assembly polls. — IANS

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Cover photo: Former Karnataka CM, former BJP state president Jagdish Shettar joins Congress party in the presence of AICC President Mallikarjun Kharge, KPCC president DK Shivakumar and others at KPCC office in Bengaluru on Monday. — IANS

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