Laxman Savadi quits BJP, joins Congress; BJP faces rebellion heat in over 25 Assembly seats

Former Deputy CM Laxman Savadi, who deems BJP National General Secretary BL Santhosh his 'guru', will contest from Athani on Congress ticket.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Apr 14, 2023 | 6:45 PM Updated Apr 14, 2023 | 6:45 PM

BJP rebel Lingayat leader Laxman Savadi to contest from Congress in Athani Assembly seat in the upcoming elections. (Supplied)

Ever since the BJP announced its candidates list for 212 Assembly seats, senior leaders, incumbent MLAs, and aspirants who have been denied a ticket, have turned rebels and are looking to join other parties.

This dissent in the BJP has turned into an opportunity for other political parties, mainly the Congress and the JD(S), who are welcoming rebel leaders of the BJP into their fold, offering them tickets to contest in the state Assembly polls scheduled for 10 May.

A big fish from the BJP, former deputy chief minister Laxman Savadi, resigned from the primary membership of the BJP and pledged his allegiance to the Congress on Friday, 14 April.

Savadi belongs to the influential Lingayat-Ganiga sub-sect, dominant in most of the regions in North Karnataka. He was the first disgruntled BJP leader to officially quit the party and switch loyalty.

Savadi: Instrumental in collapse of JDS-Congress coalition 

Following a meeting with his supporters at Athani on Thursday, where he flexed his muscled in a show of influence in the seat, Savadi pledged his allegiance to Congress in Bengaluru on Friday.

He had rebelled against BJP high command after the party gave the Athani ticket to incumbent MLA Mahesh Kumathalli, a close aid of Ramesh Jarkiholi. Savadi ended his over-two-decades association with the BJP with a resignation letter to BJP State president Nalin Kumar Kateel.

It may be recalled that Savadi was among three MLAs who were caught watching pornographic content inside the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in 2012, leading to their resignations.

Savadi also played a key role in facilitating the defection of Congress and JD(S) MLAs in 2019, which eventually led to the collapse of the coalition government.

Also Read: K’taka: Rebellion dogs BJP following announcement of first list 

Savadi joins Congress

Savadi announced his decision of joining the Congress after holding a closed-door meeting with Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah, AICC General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala, and KPCC President DK Shivakumar.

According to sources, “Savadi had two conditions to join the Congress. One is a ticket for Athani Assembly seat and another is assurance to complete major irrigation projects in North Karnataka.”

Admitting that he demanded the ticket, Siddaramaiah told reporters, “Savadi had only one demand. We have decided to give him a ticket for the Athani seat. There is no dissent in the party’s Belagavi unit about him joining our party.”

“Savadi’s presence in the Congress will strengthen the party, not only in North Karnataka but also across the state,” affirmed the former chief minister.

Announcing his allegiance to Congress, Savadi told reporters in Bengaluru, “On the consent of my high command (his followers), I am joining the Congress. I have put some conditions; the leaders of the Congress have agreed.”

“I had not asked them (BJP) to make me deputy chief minister, but they did. They sacked me, without asking. Then, whom did they ask before giving me deputy chief minister?” Savadi lashed out at the BJP.

Also Read: SF K’taka pre-poll survey: Change of government on the anvil

CM Bommai responds

Responding to this, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai told reporters, “It is sad that he has joined the Congress. He announced it yesterday itself. He has seen his future in that party.”

“The party workers are in our favour. Few people leave the party with a sole aim to become MLAs. The party workers are committed to the cadre. We will soon release the final list,” added Bommai.

“As soon as Siddaramaiah got the hint that the BJP will deny a ticket to Savadi from Athani, he was quick to invite him to the Congress. He had also entrusted the job to one of the MLAs of Kalyana Karnataka to bring him to the party. This will boost the Congress in many regions of North Karnataka,” a close aide of Savadi, on condition of anonymity, told South First.

Savadi will resign from the Legislative Council post by submitting a letter to Karnataka Legislative Council Chairman Basavaraj Horatti in Bengaluru.

Also Read: SF K’taka pre-poll survey: Price rise, corruption top voter problems

BJP struggles to quell rebellion in 25 seats

Many other rebel BJP leaders are in the queue to bid adieu to the BJP, ahead of the Assembly polls. The dissidence is not just among disgruntled leaders, many of their supporters have also staged protests in many seats, including Chamarajpet, Jevargi, Athani, Ramdurg, and Belagavi North, and raised slogans against the party central leadership.

In some places, cadres burnt BJP flags, and junked BJP stickers and logos.

With the BJP yet to announce tickets for 12 more Assembly seats, the party is struggling to tackle the dissent that has spread like wildfire in around 25 Assembly seats of 10 to 12 districts where the cadre is now a divided house.

The other disgruntled incumbent MLAs that are set to quit party are Hosadurga MLA Goolihatti Shekar, Belagavi North MLA Anil Benke, Byndoor MLA B Sukumar Shetty, Mudigere MLA MP Kumaraswamy, Kalaghatgi MLA CM Nimbannavar, Haveri (SC) MLA Nehru Olekar, and Ramdurg MLA Mahadevappa S Yadawad.

Incumbent MLAs Kumaraswamy and Olekar are likely to switch loyalty to JD(S). Benke is in talks with the Congress.

Also Read: Former K’taka DyCM Eshwarappa retires from electoral politics

Accepting their fate or quitting the party

Despite being denied a ticket, Udupi MLA Raghupati Bhat, who expressed his dissent publicly, has now decided to rally behind party candidate Yashpal Suvarna.

Incumbent minister Angara S, who represented the Sulia seat for six consecutive terms, has announced retirement from electoral politics but has said that he would not indulge in any anti-party activities.

It is not just the incumbent MLAs, but also former BJP legislators and aspirants who are quitting the party.

Doddappagouda Patil Naribol from Jevargi, who was the aspirant from Jevargi, is set to join the JD(S). SI Chikkanagoudar, who was the aspirant from Kundgol, is likely to join the Congress. Suresh Gowda B Patil, who was the aspirant from Byadagi, is set to contest as an independent candidate.

Even NR Santosh, a kin of former chief minister BS Yediyurappa — considered his right-hand man at one point — was aspiring for a BJP ticket from Arsikere seat. After the party denied him a ticket, he is in talks with the JD(S). Santhosh is also considering the possibility of contesting as an independent candidate.

Also Read: SF pre-poll survey K’taka: Who is voting for which party and why

JD(S) looking to take in disgruntled BJP leaders 

On condition of anonymity, a JD(S) spokesperson told South First, “Everyone knew that there would be a rebellion in the BJP after it released its candidates list. We are in talks with the many disgruntled BJP leaders including in Jevargi and Shahpur.”

“The party will soon announce its decision in welcoming Kumaraswamy and Olekar. This will also improve the party’s prospects across the state. Everyone will get clarity, once the final list is announced. The party is likely to release the final candidates list on Friday,” a JD(S) spokesperson confirmed to South First.

“Rebellion is normal in all parties when candidate lists are announced. We anticipated some pushback from aspirants who hoped to get tickets but didn’t. Someone like Laxman Savadi was given many opportunities by the party. He was an MLC and was also made deputy chief minister. BJP decided on tickets after thorough consultations with everyone, including cadres at the shakti kendra level. We are confident that we will return to power,” DK Aruna, National Vice-President of the BJP and Co In-charge of Karnataka BJP told South First.