The Return of the Lingayat Lion: Jagadish Shettar Back in the BJP Fold

In a move that sent shockwaves through Karnataka’s political landscape, former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar on Thursday retraced his steps, returning to the bosom of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – the party he had left amidst discontent only a year ago. Shettar’s homecoming marks a dramatic turn of events, rewriting the political equation in a state gearing up for crucial Lok Sabha elections next year.

Jagadish Shettar’s Political Rollercoaster

The 67-year-old Lingayat strongman, known as the “Hubballi Tiger” for his fierce loyalty to his constituency, had stunned everyone in May 2023 when he crossed over to the Congress. At the heart of his defection lay the bitter disappointment of being denied a BJP ticket for his home turf, Hubballi-Dharwad. “My seniority was ignored,” he had declared, his voice heavy with hurt. “Self-respect was everything to me,” he had said, echoing the sentiments of many Lingayats who felt marginalized within the BJP.

Jagadish Shettar

Shettar’s departure was a significant blow to the BJP, especially considering his stature as a six-term MLA and a former Chief Minister (2012-2013). He had also served as the Leader of the Opposition during the Siddaramaiah government (2014-2018), proving his mettle as a formidable political opponent.

From Congress to BJP: The Intriguing Journey of Jagadish Shettar in Karnataka

His time in the Congress, however, was short-lived and far from satisfying. In the subsequent Assembly elections, Shettar faced a humiliating defeat, losing his stronghold to Mahesh Tenginakai of the BJP by a whopping 34,289 votes. It was a bitter pill to swallow, marking the first time since 1994 that he had failed to win a Legislative Assembly seat.

Enter then, the persistent coaxing of B.S. Yediyurappa, the veteran BJP leader and another Lingayat stalwart. With his characteristic political maneuvering, Yediyurappa played on Shettar’s disillusionment with the Congress and his nostalgia for the familiar territory of the BJP. The promise of a prominent role in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections likely served as a sweetener, offering Shettar an opportunity to resurrect his political career.

Political Chess in Karnataka

Shettar’s return to the BJP is being interpreted in multiple ways. Some see it as a strategic move by the BJP to bolster its Lingayat base, a crucial demographic in Karnataka politics. Others see it as a sign of desperation, highlighting the BJP’s lack of credible candidates for the Lok Sabha elections. Still others view it as a pragmatic shift by Shettar, recognizing the Congress’s fading fortunes and seeking a better platform for political survival.

Whatever the motivations, Shettar’s homecoming is bound to have a significant impact on the upcoming electoral battle. His return injects a fresh dose of dynamism into the BJP, providing them with a seasoned leader and a proven vote-getter in North Karnataka. It also potentially weakens the Congress, who lose a prominent Lingayat face and face internal criticism for failing to retain a leader of Shettar’s stature.

The Lingayat Lion’s Roar

However, the path ahead for Shettar won’t be without its challenges. He will need to navigate the internal dynamics of the BJP, mend fences with those who felt betrayed by his defection, and prove his continued relevance within the party. The Congress, stung by his departure, is likely to launch scathing attacks, portraying him as an opportunist who abandoned his principles for personal gain.

The Lingayat community, though largely supportive of the BJP, might have mixed reactions to Shettar’s return. Some might applaud his pragmatism, while others might harbor resentment for his perceived disloyalty. It remains to be seen if Shettar can effectively address these internal fissures and solidify his position as a Lingayat leader within the BJP.

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Ultimately, the success of Shettar’s political resurrection will depend on his ability to navigate these complex dynamics, mend bridges, and prove his worth to both the BJP and the Lingayat community. Whether he emerges as a kingmaker or a footnote in history remains to be seen, but Jagadish Shettar’s return to the BJP has undoubtedly stirred the pot of Karnataka politics, setting the stage for a fascinating electoral drama in the months to come.

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