With speculation rife that Laxman Savadi — who quit the BJP and joined the Congress ahead of Karnataka Assembly elections, adding strength to the party — was disappointed over not being given a Cabinet berth, Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar held talks with him and Jagadish Shettar.
The two Lingayat leaders helped the Congress further its support base within the community this election, despite Shettar losing his own seat.
The Karnataka deputy chief minister flew to North Karnataka and held talks with Athani MLA Laxman Savadi and Jagadish Shettar in Belagavi and Hubballi, respectively, assuring them of top posts in the Congress government.
The meeting to woo Savadi
In a special flight, Shivakumar flew to Belagavi, which is his first visit to North Karnataka after taking over as the deputy chief minister, late at night to meet Savadi on Tuesday, 30 May.
As soon as Shivakumar arrived in Belagavi, he went straight to the residence of Savadi and held talks for about an hour. This meeting sent ripples of anticipation and speculation in the political circles in North Karnataka.
On Wednesday morning, he flew to Hubballi to meet Jagadish Shettar at his residence. Shettar lost badly on a Congress ticket from the Hubballi-Dharwad Central Assembly seat in the polls.
He was accompanied by Minister for Public Works Satish Jarkiholi and Minister for Women and Child Welfare Laxmi Hebbalkar.
Though Shivakumar stated it as a courtesy visit, there is strong speculation that the deputy chief minister offered the leaders various posts in the government.
Also read: Laxman Savadi quits BJP, joins Congress
Athani MLA Laxman Savadi made it clear to Shivakumar during the meeting at his residence in Belagavi that he would not accept anything less than the Cabinet post.
“Deputy Chief Minister Shivakumar paid a courtesy visit to my home as we had not met after the Assembly elections. I have made it clear to him that I won’t accept any post other than a Cabinet minister,” Savadi told South First.
“I don’t want to take a demotion as I was a deputy chief minister and held various top posts in the Cabinet. He has responded positively and assured me that he would offer me a Cabinet berth at the right time,” he said.
“He didn’t discuss anything about offering the chairmanship of any board or corporations or the post of Parliament secretary to me because I made my stand clear before him. I am happy being an MLA at the moment,” he added.
“Shivakumar also held talks on how much the party benefited after former chief minister Jagadish Shettar and I joined the cadre and helped them win the Assembly elections in North Karnataka. He expressed gratitude and said that the party and government were with me,” continued Savadi.
“When joining the party, I had put forward only two conditions. One was an MLA ticket, which has been fulfilled. The other was to complete the irrigation projects in our region. As he is the water resources minister, he has promised to take up all the major irrigation works,” he added.
‘Party will honour Shettar, Savadi’
Before departing to Hubballi, Shivakumar said that the Congress would honour with top posts those leaders that joined hands with the party during its tough times.
“Shettar and Savadi joined our party in difficult times and strengthened the cadre. After the elections, I didn’t get the time to meet both the leaders. So, I came to meet them,” Shivakumar told reporters in Belagavi on Wednesday.
Asked whether Shettar and Savadi were upset with the party, Shivakumar said: “No leader is upset. I am a senior leader and the party president. I didn’t know that Savadi was expecting a Cabinet post. All I can say is that the Congress will not leave anyone behind.”
The Karnataka Pradesh Congress chief added: “The party will honour those who have joined hands with us in our difficult times. Don’t ask me when and what.”
Congress is with Shettar: Shivakumar
After holding talks with Jagadish Shettar, Shivakumar reiterated that the Congress was with him, and that he went there to convey the message of the party’s high command.
Shivakumar met Shettar and held talks at the latter’s residence in Hubballi on Wednesday.
“It was a courtesy visit. He held talks on the party’s stellar performance in the recently concluded Assembly elections,” Jagadish Shettar told South First.
“We had not met after the elections. So, he came to meet me. He neither offered any posts nor held any talks on the matter,” said Shettar, refuting rumours that the party had offered him the post of the deputy chairman of the NITI Aayog in Karnataka.
“The high command has sent a message to both the leaders and I have conveyed it to them. Win and loss are part of the elections. They have strengthened and given guidance to the party,” Shivakumar told reporters after meeting Shettar in Hubballi.
Meanwhile, asked whether the Congress would give Shettar a top post or a ticket for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Shivakumar said: “I don’t want to discuss anything in public. I am making it clear that the party is with him.”