The political drama surrounding the BJP is taking an interesting turn in Karnataka, following the announcement of its first candidates’ list for 189 Assembly seats.
Many senior leaders who missed out on a ticket have hit out at central and state leaderships as tension continues to brew among the cadre.
The BJP announced its candidates for 189 Assembly seats for the 10 May Karnataka elections on Tuesday, 11 April.
As predicted by political commentators, nine incumbent MLAs including Cabinet minister Angara S were denied tickets.
Following this development, Angara announced his retirement from electoral politics. He represented the Sulia segment for six consecutive terms since 1994.
Of the others, BJP state vice-president and MLC Laxman Savadi and Hosadurga MLA Goolihatti Shekar have resigned from the primary membership of the party and are likely to pledge allegiance to the Congress and Karnataka Rajya Pragathi Paksha, which was founded by mining baron and politician Gali Janardhana Reddy.
Udupi MLA Raghupati Bhat, who was also overlooked by BJP, said he was deeply pained by the treatment meted out to him by the party.
The BJP instead went with Yashpal Suvarna, who spearheaded the hijab row in coastal Karnataka.
BJP MLC R Shankar, who was an aspirant for a ticket from the Ranebennur Assembly seat, resigned as legislator on Wednesday after the party ignored his request.
After senior BJP senior KS Eshwarappa, who is the incumbent MLA from Shivamogga, announced his retirement from electoral politics on Wednesday, his supporters — including the local mayor, deputy mayor, and many party workers — tendered mass resignation and demanded that the high command consider Eshwarappa for the seat.
Similarly, senior leaders including former chief minister Jagadish Shettar, who represented the Hubballi-Dharwad Central seat for six consecutive terms, criticised the party high command.
“The party has reportedly asked Shettar to retire from politics, and is planning to field a new face from the same seat,” said a party source.
He met the party high command in Delhi on Wednesday. “The party has assured of taking a positive decision on the Hubballi-Dharwad Central seat in the following days. I have held detailed discussions with the high command. They have responded positively,” Shettar told reporters in Delhi.
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Savadi to announce his stand soon
After the party high command denied a ticket to Laxman Savadi from Belagavi’s Athani seat, he announced that he would resign from his Legislative Council post and primary membership of the BJP.
He was the first senior leader from the saffron cadre to quit the party since the first list of candidates came out.
“I have certainly made a decision. I have decided to resign from the primary membership of the party,” Savadi told reporters in the district headquarters town of Belagavi.
Sitting MLA Mahesh Kumathalli, who was backed by BJP leader and former Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi, was given a ticket from Athani in the Belagavi district.
Kumathalli was among the group of defectors, including Jarkiholi, who helped the BJP bring down the Congress-JD(S) coalition and form its government under the leadership of BS Yediyurappa in 2019.
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Congress planning to rope in Savadi?
Ever since news of the BJP denying a ticket to Lingayat strongman Savadi — a close aide of Yediyurappa — emerged, the Congress has been working on bringing him into the fold, having entrusted the responsibility to its leaders who have a close association with Savadi.
“Except in the 2018 Assembly polls, the Congress has never won in Athani since 1998. The party is in talks with Savadi. Siddaramaiah has given the responsibility to Koppal MLA Raghavendra Hitnal and others to bring him into the party,” a close aide of Laxman Savadi told South First on condition of anonymity.
Congress leader and four-time Kagwad MLA Raju Kage met Savadi and reportedly invited him to the party.
“People are my high command. I have called a meeting of all my high command and heads of all the communities to seek their opinion. I will announce my future in politics on Thursday evening based on their opinion,” Savadi told reporters.
However, a majority of the supporters insisted that he contest as an independent candidate.
Savadi sarcastically hit back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Wednesday.
“I would like to see Bommai, who is my well-wisher, as the prime minister in future as the current prime minister, Narendra Modi, will retire after he turns 75 years,” said Savadi, pointing to an often-enforced BJP convention, especially after 2014.
“Even Belagavi North MLA Anil Benke, who has been denied a ticket, is planning to quit the BJP and join the Congress,” claimed sources.
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Tension in Shivamogga, elsewhere
Tension prevailed within the BJP cadre in Shivamogga, Hubballi City, Belagavi North, Athani, Hosadurga, Byatrayanapura, Chamrajapete, Ramdurga, Bailahongla, and many other seats after incumbent MLAs were either denied a ticket or candidates were not announced in the first list.
Mass resignations by @BJP4Karnataka leaders, members in Shivamogga unit in support of @ikseshwarappa. Several municipal corp members write resignation letters too. A delegation heads to Bengaluru to meet @BSYBJP. pic.twitter.com/fYYaDWiSK6
— Anusha Ravi Sood (@anusharavi10) April 12, 2023
Supporters of former minister Eshwarappa tendered mass resignation to the primary membership of the BJP.
They also staged protests demanding that the high command field either Eshwarappa or his son KE Kantesh from Shivamogga.
BJP fulfils half of BSY’s demands
The BJP central leadership fulfilled only half the demands of BJP Parliamentary Board member and former chief minister BS Yediyurappa by giving tickets to 10 of his supporters in the first list.
Yediyurappa was reportedly miffed with the party high command over ticket distribution and walked out of the meeting after Prime Minister Narendra Modi refused to approve his demand of tickets to 25 of his followers, including Laxman Savadi.
In the first list, Vijashankar from Periyapatna, Thimmesh Gowda from Byattarayanapura, Siddu Savadi from Terdal, and Saptaghirigowda from Gandhinagar are among the followers of Yediyurappa who managed to get a ticket.
“The party has fulfilled only half of BSY’s demands in the first list. A few more of his supporters are likely to get a ticket in the second list. The party was reluctant to fulfil his demands as the party had a different strategy for this election,” an incumbent minister, who wished to remain unnamed, told South First.
Bommai’s list rejected?
While finalising the list of candidates for all 224 Assembly seats, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly rejected the list presented by Bommai and approved the list presented by BJP national general secretary BL Santosh, who has strong roots in the Rashtriya Swayamsevaka Sangha (RSS), claimed party sources.
Among the total 52 news faces in the first list, most are associated with the RSS and reportedly have the backing of Santosh.
“It was almost six months ago when the party high command decided to give tickets to the leaders and workers associated with the Sangh,” a senior BJP leader told South First.
He further said: “The prime minister was unhappy with the Bommai’s list as there were barely eight to 10 new faces.”
He added: “The names in many Assembly seats were changed at the last moment. Thus, 52 new faces were given tickets, while senior leaders and incumbent MLAs were denied. The party is working on developing second-line leaders.”