When Jagadish Shettar left the BJP to join the Congress in April 2023, one man he went on a frontal attack against was BL Santhosh, BJP’s General Secretary for Organisation. Shettar named Santhosh as the person responsible for sidelining him, despite being a senior legislator and a party loyalist. And nine months later, one of the key assurances made to bring back Shettar was that BL Santhosh would be kept at bay as far as party affairs are concerned in Karnataka.
But Shettar’s grouse was not just against Santhosh but also another BJP leader, someone from his hometown who went on to become a prominent Union minister- Prahalad Joshi. The animosity between Shettar and Prahalad Joshi, Minister for Parliamentary affairs in the Modi government had been brewing for a while. In addition to a turf war (Joshi is a member of Parliament from Shettar’s home town of Hubballi), there were also caste equations at play. Shettar belongs to the Lingayat community while Joshi is a Brahmin. The sidelining of Lingayat mathas and reducing their influence over Karnataka politics was said to be one of Santhosh’s projects. And in this game, Santhosh, a Brahmin himself, used Joshi to curb Shettar’s influence. Shettar is known to enjoy good relations with many Lingayat mathadeeshwaras–heads of mathas.
TNM has learnt that while negotiating with Shettar, BJP leadership assured him that these two leaders will not cross his path, and will not undermine him again. Sources in the BJP tell us that talks between the BJP leadership and Shettar have been going on for months. Shettar’s political mentor and former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa was pivotal in these talks. And after Yediyurappa’s son Vijayendra became the party president in the state, Shettar became confident of staging a comeback.
Shettar’s decision to move back to the BJP was made not just for his political future but also to secure his son’s. While Shettar has been assured that if BJP wins, he may be given a role with the Union government in 2024, he has also been assured of a role for his son Sankalp.
For the BJP, the idea of getting Shettar back is not just about electoral calculations in his constituency in Hubballi but also about signalling to the Lingayat community that one of their leaders has been brought back respectfully.
And it is a matter of creating a public perception–that the BJP can counter the Congress’s moves in the state. Congress leaders, including CM Siddaramaiah and DyCM and party president DK Shivakumar had no inkling that Shettar was set to desert them. The exit has served a jolt to the ruling party ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Within the BJP, the message was that Yediyurappa and his son Vijayendra have outmanoeuvred BL Santhosh and his people in the party.