Jagadish Shettar accuses BL Santhosh of ‘setting Karnataka BJP on fire’; saffron party defends its leader

The new Congress entrant blamed BJP national general secretary (organisation) BL Santhosh for him losing ticket and quitting the party.

BySouth First Desk

Published Apr 18, 2023 | 8:11 PM Updated Apr 18, 2023 | 8:28 PM

Jagadish Shettar joining Congress, BL Santhosh.

Former Karnataka chief minister Jagadish Shettar on Tuesday, 18 April, blamed BJP national general secretary (organisation) BL Santhosh for forcing his exit from the saffron party.

In his first press conference on his home turf of Hubballi after he joined the Congress, Shettar went all out against Santhosh, accusing him of “setting Karnataka BJP on fire”.

The BJP was quick to counter Jagadish Shettar’s statement and put up a passionate defence of Santhosh.

Related: ‘Humiliated’ by BJP, Jagadish Shettar joins Congress

First one to criticise

This is the first time ever that even a former BJP leader has directly blamed the powerful organising secretary of the party — BL Santhosh.

For years now, political circles in Karnataka have discussed the standing rivalry leading factions in the party led by BL Santhosh and former chief minister BS Yediyurappa, but none had ever publicly made direct accusations.

Santhosh was an organising secretary in Karnataka before he was elevated to the national post.

Shettar’s remarks

Shettar, now a Congress member set to contest from Hubballi-Dharwad Central, said he lost out on a BJP ticket because of BL Santhosh’s favouritism towards others in the party.

“When there was a possibility of winning with maximum votes, the question emerged as to why I was denied a ticket. What I saw clearly was that this person, whom people call Santhosh ji with respect — BL Santhosh — was the root cause of all this,” Shettar said in the press conference.

“He may think that he has upset just one seat. But in the process, fire has been set to the whole of BJP in Karnataka,” Shettar alleged.

Shettar, the former leader of the Opposition and Speaker, also alleged that he fell victim to the “game” played against him, and added the ticket that was announced in his favour was taken back later.

“The BJP gave a ticket to Mahesh Tenginkai who, I won’t deny, has worked for the party organisation. If the party wanted to honour him, it could have made him MLC or given him some important post,” Shettar said, adding that BL Santhosh edged him out to accommodate Tenginkai.

Related: BS Yediyurappa slams Shettar for quitting BJP

The ‘whispering campaign’

The veteran leader accused Tenginkai — who he deemed as BL Santhosh’s “Maanas Putra” — of running a “whispering campaign” against him over the past six-seven months.

Stating that Santhosh has many “Maanas Putras” (a person who is treated like a son), Shettar said, “This Maanas Putra (Mahesh Tenginkai) started a whispering campaign with his disciples against me for the past six-seven months.”

A staunch RSS man, Shettar was part of the Jan Sangh and the BJP for several decades before severing his ties with the party upon his candidature being overlooked for the 10 May election, and joined the Congress on Monday.

The Congress honoured Shettar, a six-time MLA, by giving him a ticket from the Hubli-Dharwad Central constituency, while the BJP chose its state general secretary (organisation) Tenginkai for the same seat.

Shettar also said he was humiliated by the BJP’s choice of placing Tamil Nadu unit president K Annamalai as co-in-charge of Karnataka elections where seniors like him had to bow their heads to a newbie.

“Annamalai, who was an IPS officer in Karnataka, took VRS. Party sent him to Tamil Nadu and made him president. He lost his own election. A man who hasn’t won a single election has been made co-incharge of Karnataka elections and placed above people like me who have won six times,” Shettar pointed out.

Also read: RSS-BJP’s long game to curb the influence of mathas

BJP passionately defends BL Santhosh

Following Jagadish Shettar’s allegations against its national organising secretary, leaders of BJP went all guns blazing against Shettar and passionately defended Santhosh.

“BL Santhosh hasn’t come to BJP for electoral politics but for the organisation. He is not an MLA or MP. Neither has he said he wants to be MLA or minister. He has come to build the party and groom young leaders. Shettar has lowered his stature by talking ill about Santhosh,” said Minister of State for Agriculture Shobha Karandlaje.

Her Cabinet colleague in the Union government and MP from Karnataka Rajeev Chandrashekhar too accused Shettar of being “opportunistic”.