The BJP cadres will teach former chief minister Jagadish Shettar a “lesson” by ensuring his defeat in the Karnataka elections for “betraying” the party, its senior leader Arun Singh said on Tuesday, rejecting the Congress’ charge that the ruling party has insulted Lingayats by denying tickets to senior leaders from the community like him. Singh, the BJP general secretary in charge of the state, asserted that Hubli-Dharwad Central, the traditional seat of Shettar who is now fighting as a Congress candidate, has been a “safe” seat for the ruling party and will remain so. “Shettar had been winning from the constituency as it was a BJP seat and not because of any mass base which he never had. BJP cadres are upset with his betrayal of the party and will ensure his defeat. He will be taught a lesson,” Singh told PTI.
He noted that BJP candidate Mahesh Tenginkai, a party general secretary in the state, who is contesting against the six-time MLA is also a Lingayat like Shettar and belongs to the same subcaste as the former chief minister. Accusing the BJP of humiliating him by denying him a poll ticket, Shettar severed his decades-old ties with the party and joined the Congress which has fielded him from his traditional seat, turning the constituency into a key battleground of the polls scheduled for May 10. Seizing on his angst and similar reactions of another Lingayat leader Laxman Savadi after the denial of a ticket by the BJP, the Congress has accused the ruling party of insulting the community and fielded both of them as its candidates.
Singh dismissed the Congress’ suggestions and asserted that the BJP has the support of the tallest Lingayat leader in B S Yediyurappa and has many popular leaders from the community like V Somanna and B P Yatnal. He added that Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai is also from the state’s largest social group which has long been a bedrock of the BJP’s base. Savadi, he noted, could not win even his own seat in 2018 but the party made him an MLC and a deputy chief minister as well. The BJP also gave all the due respect to Shettar but he chose to “betray” the party for his personal interests, he said. Singh counted social engineering, a reference to the state government rejigging quota to placate different communities, the plank of development and the party’s bid to usher in a new leadership by giving tickets to 72 new candidates as the major factors favouring it in the polls. The Congress has raised the issue of alleged corruption and accused the BJP of “insulting” Lingayats to corner the ruling party in the run-up to the polls.
Singh expressed confidence that the ruling party will also make deep inroads in the Old Mysuru region where the JD(S) and the Congress have traditionally been main rivals. The agrarian community of Vokkaligas is numerically the most powerful in the region. The presence of Vokkaliga leaders like R Ashoka and C T Ravi will help the BJP better its tally in the region, he said. He claimed that the BJP will retain power in in Karnataka, noting that it has been the leading state in the country on several growth indices, including the ease of doing business, FDI and innovation. “Our target is 150 seats. We will surely achieve it,” the BJP leader said.