In an unprecedented turn of events, the BJP’s candidate for the upcoming bye-polls in Ramanagara, L Chandrashekar, has withdrawn his candidature and defected from the party. Chandrashekar quit the BJP, stating that the party leaders reneged on their promise to campaign for him and support him for the upcoming bye-elections.With this, the BJP has found itself in a tough spot, as it does not have a candidate for the constituency, which is going to the polls on November 3.
“I joined the BJP with a lot of expectations. But being a candidate for the election for a constituency, I am disappointed by the lack of attention showed by the BJP leadership on their promise to campaign for me. The leaders did not offer support as promised earlier and did not offer support when I was filing my nomination papers. They have left me in the lurch. Disappointed and dejected by the turn of events, I am withdrawing my nomination as a BJP candidate,” Chandrashekar’s letter stated.
Speaking to TNM, L Chandrashekar said, “I was initially with the Congress. The BJP had promised me a ticket and offered support. However, Yeddyurappa left me in the lurch and not a single leader came to help me in the campaign. They sidelined me and this hurt me immensely. Besides, the BJP leaders kept bickering among themselves and this ensured that my chances of winning are very low. In the past few days, I have not been able to contact any BJP state-level leaders. Only the district President Rudresh was in touch with me. Yeddyurappa did not even want to talk to me when I contacted him about the election campaign. I wanted to teach them a lesson for betraying me and hence I withdrew my nomination. CP Yogeeshwar (the former Channapattana MLA and BJP leader) was the one who approached me initially, but even he was unavailable. He had promised to support me and he too reneged.”
‘Warned him not to join BJP’: Congress MLC
Speaking to the media, Chandrashekar’s father, Congress MLC CM Lingappa, said that he had initially advised his son against joining the BJP.
“I had told him not to join the BJP. I had warned him that he would have a bitter experience. After he joined BJP, I had not spoken with him. Now he has come back to the party. This is a cowardly move. Such things must not happen in politics. I found out that he quit BJP only after watching the news. He did not listen to me when I advised him. He initially told me that he would listen to me but he went back on his word. I found out that he was joining BJP only when he announced on television,” CM Lingappa said.
Chandrashekhar's father also said that he was appalled by the way his son behaved and condemned him for not following his advice.
"He did not listen to me. This is upsetting. I would have at least contested the election and then taken a decision. Now BJP is saying he has taken money to do this. It is shameful,” he added.
Reacting to Chandrashekar's withdrawal, Deputy Chief Minister Dr G Parameshwara said that the BJP has no strong presence in Ramanagara. “Chandrashekar quit BJP because the BJP leaders did not campaign for him and had gone back on their word. The BJP does not have any standing in Ramanagara. Now he has decided to come back home,” Parameshwara said.
BJP in a quandry
With Chandrashekar’s departure, BJP has found itself in an embarrassing situation, as the state party does not have a candidate for Ramanagara now and the last day to file nomination was on October 16. The BJP will not be able to field a new candidate for Ramanagara, unless it wants to back an existing independent.
Incidentally, CM HD Kumaraswamy has never lost from the Ramanagara seat since 2004. The constituency, with a heavy Vokkaliga population, is traditionally a fight between the Congress and JD(S) with BJP usually trailing as the third best. With the Congress, JD(S) joining hands, it was practically impossible for the BJP to manage a victory.
Chandrashekar, who was a Congress leader, defected to the BJP in October this year, soon after the Congress-JD(S) combine announced Anita Kumaraswamy as its candidate for the bye-elections in Ramanagara. Dejected by the party’s move to not give him a ticket, Chandrashekar had jumped ship.
However, on Thursday, Chandrashekar also announced that he was going back to the Congress and would support Anita’s candidature. “I take back my nomination and I support Congress-JDS candidate Anita Kumaraswamy,” Chandrashekar’s letter stated.
Reacting to the turn of events, Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy said that the BJP should blame themselves and not the coalition government. "BJP should blame themselves for this conundrum instead of blaming Congress-JD(S). They forced him to join BJP. The leaders failed to keep their promises that they made him. They did not consult with their party workers before giving him a ticket," he added.
Speaking to the media, BJP state President BS Yeddyurappa said that Chandrashekar and several leaders of the coalition government had conspired to ensure the BJP was left in the lurch. “Chandrashekar was likely bought by the Congress leaders and this is a conspiracy. He was paid money to do this. We know who is behind this,” Yeddyurappa said.
Speaking to TNM, Ramanagara BJP district President Rudresh said that Chandrashekar’s withdrawal came as a shock to party leaders.
“I don’t know why he withdrew the nomination. Last night, Chandrashekar and one of our leaders Sachidananda Murthy were discussing the campaign. I had instructed all cadre to stay in various booths set up in Ramanagara. We had also campaigned in the area. I also dropped him back home at 11 pm. He told me that he would come for campaigning at 7 pm. But this morning, things suddenly changed everything. I don’t know why it happened,” Rudresh said.
“This is match-fixing politics. I believe that Chandrashekar had taken money in order to sabotage the BJP's chance of winning. We were sure of winning this time. Suresh Kumar, Sadananada Gowd and other leaders have campaigned with him in every village," he added.
BJP MLA from Shivamogga, KS Eshwarappa said that this was a lesson for the BJP and that he was shocked at the turn of events. "Chandrashekar is the son of CM Lingappa. He is an honest politician and we thought even his son would be the same. What we have to learn from this is that the party needs to strengthen itself in Ramanagara. This is a lesson for us,” he told TNM.
Speculation is rife that Water Resource Minister and strongman of Ramanagara DK Shivakumar had orchestrated Chandrashekhar's defection from the BJP.
Soon after Chandrashekar announced his withdrawal, rumours began doing the rounds that the BJP's Mandya candidate, Dr Siddarmaiah, will also quit the party.