Karnataka polls: BJP turns to party rebel to reverse 2013 loss in Kundapura

Halady Srinivas Shetty, who split from the party and won as an independent candidate in 2013 has been re-inducted into the party.
Karnataka polls: BJP turns to party rebel to reverse 2013 loss in Kundapura
Karnataka polls: BJP turns to party rebel to reverse 2013 loss in Kundapura
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The release of BJP's first list of candidates for the 2018 assembly elections in Karnataka appears to have settled the debate over who the candidate from Kundapura constituency in Udupi district would be. 

The party, as expected, has named Halady Srinivas Shetty after he was re-inducted into the party in February. 

A four-time MLA from Kundapur Constituency, Srinivas contested and won as a BJP candidate in three previous elections. He decided to break away from the party in 2013 and contest as an independent candidate in the Assembly elections. He won, resigning the BJP to third place. 

"It is the party with which I have won three times in the past so naturally I am now back in the party," he told TNM.

Srinivas resigned from the BJP just months before the 2013 assembly elections. "I have never been given a post as a minister. I am not someone who will ask for one either. I kept doing my work but in the end, I felt I had to resign from the BJP before the elections," Srinivas said, refusing to be drawn into a discussion about the reason for his decision to quit the party.

Sources in the BJP confirmed that Srinivas was frustrated with the way he was 'handled' by the party. 

When he contested as an independent candidate in 2013, he won from Kundapura with a whopping margin of over 40,000 votes over Congress candidate Mallyadi Shivarama Shetty. BJP candidate Kishore Kumar finished a distant third in the elections.

Srinivas claimed that the BJP has been eager to reintegrate him into the party ever since his electoral victory in 2013. 

"In the last two years, the party had repeatedly asked me to come back but I could not do it until now since I would have to resign as the MLA," Srinivas explained. 

When asked about his differences with the party, he said that they were "old wounds that have now healed".

However, his return to the BJP has not been smooth. 

In November 2017, when Shetty was still yet to formally announce his return to the BJP, trouble broke out at the BJP's Parivartana Yatra in Kundapur when BJP workers fought with the supporters of Halady Srinivas Shetty.

The move to bring Shetty back into the party was met with resistance from party supporters of Kishore Kumar, the BJP candidate in Kundapur in 2013. BJP workers were agitated when Yeddyurappa asked them to remain calm and asked those who were sloganeering against Srinivas to leave the meet. 

Kishore Kumar claimed to be the proposed candidate for the BJP from Kundapur. Later, former Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda turned peacemaker to mitigate the situation between Kishore and Srinivas.

Speaking to TNM, Srinivas dismissed the incident as a 'non-issue'. 

"There was an opposition from 40-50 members. It was a small group of people who supported the BJP candidate from 2013 but I don't pay much attention to things like that," he said.

Srinivas is confident of winning from Kundapur once again. "Last time around, I only went to three places to give speeches. I had the belief that people here know my work and will vote for him. It has not changed," he said.

Udupi district was considered to be one of the BJP's strongholds in the state, but the party faced humiliation in the district in 2013. The Congress won three out of the five Assembly seats from Udupi, while the BJP won just one. 

Reintegrating Srinivas Shetty seems to be part of the BJP's plan to regain a foothold in the district. 

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