Trouble broke out at the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Parivartana Yatra in Kundapur in Udupi district, as BJP workers fought with the supporters of Halady Srinivas Shetty.
The incident occurred in the presence of former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa on Monday.
Critics and supporters of Shetty confronted each other during the rally when Shetty, the MLA of Kundapur arrived at the event. Shetty and previously been a part of the BJP, but had broken off due to differences. Now, he confirmed that he is rejoining the party.
The move to bring Shetty back into the party was met with resistance from party supporters of Kishore Kumar, who contested from Kundapur for the BJP in 2013. Several supporters raised placards that read ‘Party is bigger than individual’ and ‘Halady needs BJP and BJP does not need Halady’.
BJP workers were agitated when Yeddyurappa asked them to remain calm and asked those who were sloganeering against Shetty to leave the meet. Eventually, the police had to resort to a mild lathi-charge to bring the situation under control.
Shetty refused to be drawn into discussions about the upcoming elections, but confirmed that he would be returning to the BJP from January. He described the separation from the party as “old wounds that have now healed”.
Kishore Kumar, meanwhile, claimed to be the proposed candidate for the BJP from Kundapur. Eventually, former Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda turned peacemaker to mitigate the situation.
“BJP workers are not against Shetty, but at this moment he is not in the BJP. We don’t believe any individual is bigger than the party,” said Kishore Kumar.
A four-time MLA from Kundapur Constituency, Shetty 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, and resigned the BJP to third place.
The Congress won three out of the five Assembly seats from Udupi in 2013 while the BJP won just one. With dissidence and infighting developing among BJP supporters in Kundapur, it remains to be seen whether BJP can regain a foothold in the region.
The BJP has resorted to the development card while campaigning for votes in Karnataka, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the way in claiming that the people of Karnataka are crying for development. The 'Parivartana Yatra' was flagged off by BJP President Amit Shah on November 2, and is travelling over 6000 km in 75 days to canvass for votes in the state.
Over 10,000 supporters turned out for the ‘Parivartana Yatra’ in Kundapur on Monday.