Jagadish Shettar, An Incidental Beneficiary Of BJP's Ideology-Meets-Social Engineering Strategy In Karnataka, Finally Runs Out Of Luck

Jagadish Shettar, An Incidental Beneficiary Of BJP's Ideology-Meets-Social Engineering Strategy In Karnataka, Finally Runs Out Of Luck

by Swarajya Staff - Sunday, April 16, 2023 03:40 PM IST
Jagadish Shettar, An Incidental Beneficiary Of BJP's Ideology-Meets-Social Engineering Strategy In Karnataka, Finally Runs Out Of LuckFormer chief minister of Karnataka, Jagadish Shettar.
  • Here's decoding Jagadish Shettar's political rise and now his exit from the BJP.

Former Karnataka chief minister Jagadish Shettar late on Saturday (15 April) announced his resignation from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after he was denied a ticket for the upcoming assembly election on 10 May.

"With a heavy heart I will resign from the party. I am the one who has built and raised this party. They (some party leaders) created a situation for me to resign from the party," Shettar said.

Shettar is the incumbent legislator from Hubli-Dharwad Central constituency.

Till late last night, the party mounted efforts to assuage Shettar with Karnataka election in-charge Dharmendra Pradhan, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and Union Minister Pralhad Joshi personally appealing to him not to enter the electoral fray. The former CM, however, continued to remain defiant.

Speculations are rife in political circles that Shettar is likely to join Congress.

Long Association With BJP

Shettar comes from a family with strong Jan Sangh (precursor of the BJP) ideological moorings. While his father, Shivappa Shettar, was the first Jan Sangh mayor of the Hubli-Dharwad Corporation, his uncle Sadashiv Shettar was an influential figure who played an instrumental role in Jan Sangh's limited rise in North Karnataka in the 60s.

A charismatic figure and a famed orator, Sadashiv was among the first four Jan Sangh leaders elected to the Karnataka state assembly in 1967, marking the first time that the party found political traction in the south.

However, the party failed to capitalise on the momentum till it re-emerged in the state's political landscape in a new avatar of BJP in the 1984 assembly elections.

The Idgah Maidan agitation played a crucial role in the meteoric rise of the BJP in Karnataka and catapulted the Shettar to the centre-stage of politics.

A long-disputed prayer ground close to the bus station in Hubballi, the maidan was awarded on a 999 years lease in 1921, to Anjuman-e-Islami, a Muslim organisation.

When several buildings were constructed on the site in the 1960s, Hindu organisations contested the right of Anjuman-e-Islami to do so. The High Court ruled in favour of the contestants, but the Supreme Court later granted a stay on the demolition of the buildings.

In the early 1990s, the BJP launched a major agitation in the state, seeking permission to unfurl the national flag in Idgah Maidan in Hubli. This demand was resisted by Muslim organisations in the state.

The Congress state government under S Bangarappa backed the Muslim groups. It denied the protesters permission for flag-hoisting, but despite prohibitory orders, a group of young men managed to enter the ground and hoist the tricolour.

Between 1992 and 1995, the BJP made several attempts to hoist a flag at the Idgah Maidan. It became a rallying point for party leaders across the state and a powerful magnet for the leading lights of the Ayodhya movement.

Led by Sangh and BJP, Hindus in the Hubballi-Dharwad region mobilised under the umbrella of Rashtradhvaja Gowrava Samrakshana Samiti (Committee for Protecting the Honour of the National Flag), attempted to hoist the national flag at Idgah Maidan, but they were prevented from doing so.

Shettar, serving as local unit leader, was fielded by the party candidate from Hubli Rural in the 1994 state assembly elections.

Benefiting from the favourable political climate created by the flag movement, Shettar was among the 40 party legislators who emerged victorious as BJP made significant electoral inroads in the state.

In 1994 assembly election, Shettar scored his maiden victory by a margin of over 15,000 votes defeating current CM Basavaraj Bommai, then Janata Dal candidate.

Shettar's subsequent political rise was fortuitous, as he repeatedly emerged as the beneficiary of factional fights within the BJP, between Yediyurappa and those opposed him.

Leader Of Opposition And Party President

In the 1999 state assembly elections, when BJP contested in alliance with the Ramakrishna Hegde-J H Patel faction of the Janata Dal, its foremost leader Yediyurappa suffered a shock defeat to Congress candidate G M Mahalingappa as a massive anti-incumbency wave swept J H Patel-led ruling Janata Dal government out of power (only time Yediyurappa has lost an election).

With Yediyurappa not in the house, the party decided to anoint Shettar as the leader of the opposition in a bid to quell a rebellion within its rank. Shettar was viewed as a political lightweight who could not upset the internal equations.

It was widely believed that sworn rivals Yediyurappa and Ananth Kumar joined forces to keep out another senior leader B B Shivappa, who was seen as a frontrunner for the post. Shettar was a lucky beneficiary from the temporary truce.

In 2005, he was appointed as BJP Karnataka president succeeding senior leader Basavaraj Patil Sedam. The decision was again seen as a party's top leadership adopting a path of least resistance to address the internal bickering.

Shettar served as revenue minister in the BJP-JDS coalition government headed by H D Kumaraswamy in 2006.

In 2008, Yediyurappa led the saffron party to power in Karnataka, the first time it formed a government in southern India. The BJP won 110 seats and emerged as the single largest party, but fell just short of the halfway mark of 112 seats in the 224-member state assembly. With the support of six independent MLAs, the party formed the government.

Shettar was then seen backing Ananth Kumar and was kept out of the ministry, but was made the assembly speaker in a reconciliatory gesture. Despite lobbying with the national leadership to be included in the government, Yedyiyurappa succeeded in keeping him out.

In 2009, faced with a rebellion from the Reddy brothers of Bellary, a chastened Yediyurappa was forced to take the support of party veterans, including Shettar. Shettar was inducted into the Cabinet as revenue minister.

Shettar also served as Rural Development and Panchayati Raj minister in the Sadananda Gowda cabinet.

Elevation As Chief Minister

The biggest moment of Shettar's political career arrived in August 2011.

Gowda, Yediyurappa's handpicked choice for Chief Minister when the Lingayat strongman stepped down a year earlier, was removed from office in July following dissidence.

When Shettar's name had cropped up as a potential candidate for the Chief Ministers in 2011, Yediyurappa batted for Gowda, a Vokkaliga, instead, as he hoped to return to power after he was cleared of the corruption charges made by the Lokayukta (ombudsman).

Political observers saw the move to oppose Shettar's elevation and prop up Gowda as an attempt by Yediyurappa, to remain the undisputed leader of the Lingayat community and not wanting the rise of a rival power centre.

Months later, Gowda had fallen foul of Yediyurappa as he attempted to assert his authority and resisted Yediyurappa's move to stage a comeback.

Yediyurappa quickly staged a volte-face and pitched for Shettar as chief minister. With Yediyurappa's support, Shettar became Karnataka's 21st Chief Minister and the BJPs third in four years.

Pitch-forked by the party to head its government in the last few months of its five-year term, Shettar managed to provide a decent administration, but it was not enough to prevent the party from facing a rout in the 2013 assembly election, as Congress stormed back to power.

The BJP won just 40 seats as the party was damaged by Karnataka Janatha Paksha (KJP), Yeddiyurappa's breakaway party and Badavara Shramikara Raithara (BSR) Congress, a party started by B Sriramalu, a former BJP minister and business associate of the Reddy brothers of Bellary.

Seen as a listless leader, Shettar watched helplessly as KJP took away a considerable chunk of the BJP's traditional Lingayat vote bank in the north Karnataka region.

2018 And After

Yediyurappa-led BJP regained power after the ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition was routed in the Lok Sabha polls, and 20 Congress and JD-S legislators switched allegiance. Shettar joined the cabinet as industry minister.

When Yediyurappa decided to resign from chief ministership in 2021, Shettar's name was mentioned along with Bommai, Murugesh Nirani, and Aravind Bellad as potential successors. The party's high command opted for Bommai.

Shettar opted out from taking up a ministerial responsibility in the Bommai cabinet, claiming that the Chief Minister was his junior in politics.

"I agreed to be a minister in former chief minister Yediyurappa's government even after becoming chief minister because Yediyurappa is senior to me in terms of age and experience. Now, CM Bommai is junior in terms of experience and how can I become a minister in his cabinet," Shettar questioned.

He maintained that he would continue as a legislator. "It is the question of self-respect and honour," he underlined.

Despite winning six consecutive terms from his constituency, Shettar is widely believed to be facing disillusionment from the electorate as he was seen as disconnected from the issues in Hubballi.

With Shettar running out of luck and the party deciding to go for large-scale change, his exit was always on the card.

It remains to be seen if Shettar's exit has any impact on BJP's electoral fortunes. Shettar belongs to the Banajigas subsect of the Lingayat community.

The group has so far had the highest share of chief ministers in the state — S Nijalingappa, J H Patel, Veerendra Patil and S R Kanthi are from this sub-sect. Incumbent CM Basavaraj Bommai is a Sadar-Lingayat, a numerically small subgroup within the community.

Since 1952, the state has seen nine Lingayats (B D Jatti, S R Kanthi, S Nijalingappa, Veerendra Patil, S R Bommai, J H Patil, B S Yediyurappa, Jagadish Shettar, Basavaraj Bommai), six Vokkaligas (Kengal Hanumanthaiah, Kadidal Manjappa, H D Deve Gowda, S M Krishna, H D Kumaraswamy and Sadananda Gowda), three OBCs (S Bangarappa, Veerappa Moily, Siddaramaiah), two Brahmins (Ramakrishna Hegde, Gundu Rao), one Rajput (Dharam Singh) and one Arasu (Devaraj Urs) as chief ministers.

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