Missing veterans in BJP list sparks row

Apr 12, 2023 12:43 AM IST

Eshwarappa, (74) who has been besieged by controversies, including accusations of graft most recently, struck a more conciliatory note, announcing that he would not contest the upcoming polls

New Delhi/Bengaluru

Former Karnataka chief minister Jagdish Shettaron Tuesday indicated that he would contest , raising the prospect of a revolt. (PTI)
Former Karnataka chief minister Jagdish Shettaron Tuesday indicated that he would contest , raising the prospect of a revolt. (PTI)

Former Karnataka chief minister Jagdish Shettar, 67, reacted badly after he was told by the BJP’s central leadership that he would not be contesting the coming assembly elections, highlighting his track record as a legislator (he has been elected to the assembly six times), his clean image, and his role in building the party in the state.

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Earlier on Tuesday, former deputy chief minister of Karnataka, KS Eshwarappa announced he was stepping away from electoral politics, followed by protests by his supporters in Shivamoga.

The move, people aware of the details said, is in line with the party’s strategy to pushing for a generational shift by make room for newer faces.

As there was a delay in the BJP announcing its list of candidates for May 10 elections, several MLAs considered close to former chief minister B S Yediyuruppa met him at his residence in Bengaluru. It is learnt that Yediyuruppa had returned to Bengaluru on Monday night not happy with the way tickets were being decided by the party high command.

On Tuesday, he said, the party has agreed to most of his suggestions and he has nothing more to contribute. However, a party leader considered close to him said that the party is likely to deny tickets to several sitting MLAs considered close to the former chief minister, a reason for he returning back without attending Tuesday’s meeting with BJP national president J P Nadda and other party leaders.

Anticipating rebellion by aspirants and MLAs, whom tickets would be denied, the BJP has formed informal teams which have started speaking to the party leaders. According to a leader familiar with the development, the party doesn’t want to take the reactions likely as it could backfire. “Unofficially, some leaders have been given regions of responsibility to pacify party workers also. We are in touch with the aspirants,” said the official.

The series of developments including denial of the two senior leaders’ candidature came hours before the BJP released its much-delayed first list of candidates, a process made difficult by conflicting demands, and the party’s by-now-standard playbook of dropping incumbents to fight anti-incumbency.

Hubballi-Dharwad MLA Shettar on Tuesday indicated that he would contest , raising the prospect of a revolt. Shettar is a Lingayat, the state’s most dominant community which accounts for 17% of the population.

“If they had told me two to three months ago, then it would have been respectable for me. When the nomination is just two days away (to begin), I am definitely hurt,” Shettar, a former Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, said.“I have told them that I will contest the election. Whatever you have said is not acceptable to me. So, please reconsider your decision and give me an opportunity to contest the election again,” he further said.

Eshwarappa, (74) who has been besieged by controversies, including accusations of graft most recently, struck a more conciliatory note, announcing that he would not contest the upcoming polls. “I am withdrawing from electoral politics...The party gave me a lot of responsibilities in the last 40 years. I went from a booth in-charge to state party chief. I also had the honour of becoming Deputy Chief Minister,” he wrote to BJP president JP Nadda.

HT learns that he wrote the letter after being prodded to do so. The Congress was quick to react. “Instead of a candidates list, senior leaders exit is happening on the BJP side. Instead of announcing tickets, the wickets are falling. Tired of making a profit from Eshwarappa when he was a minister and is now tired of making a profit during the ticket distribution too. He ran away from politics as he could not bear the humiliation of BJP,” Congress tweeted.

Reacting to KS Eshwarappa’s decision , Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said, it was his personal decision.

“Eshwarappa has been speaking to us about it for the past few months, but we were trying to pacify him. Today, he has written to the high command and we must respect it. BJP has started a culture of giving up the seat to new faces. It has happened in other states and it is happening in our state. However, Congress has given ticket to 92-year-old Shivashankarappa. This is the difference between them and us. With an intention to start a new system, we are taking tough decisions,” Bommai added.

As the news of BJP leader Eshwarappa resigning from active politics spread like wildfire, hundreds of his supporters gathered before his residence in Shivamogga to protest his decision, They shouted slogans and burnt tyres to express their anger over his sudden decision.

Shettar said he received a call asking him to step down.

In April last year,Eshwarappa’s name came up in connection with the death of contractor, Santosh Patil who was found dead in an Udupi hotel days after accusing Eshwarappa of corruption. The BJP leader, however, was cleared of the charges in a subsequent investigation.

A second party functionary who too spoke on condition of anonymity said it has become a practice in the party to encourage senior leaders to make way for “newer” faces. Since it came to power at the Centre in 2014, the BJP has followed the practice of not usually giving tickets or party posts to those above the age of 75; it has also sought to ensure that state presidents and office bearers are mostly in the 50-55 years age group. In Karnataka, the party relaxed the age bar when it appointed BS Yediyurappa as the chief minister in 2019, when he was 76.

“There are several leaders who have had a long innings in public life; while their experience is valued, it is necessary to encourage younger and newer people to take their place in order to take the party into the next decade. Change, therefore, is natural,” the second functionary said.

Though the functionary did not specify names, the party is abuzz with speculation that a few others could also announce their retirement from electoral politics.

While the BJP leadership has denied there are disagreements over candidate selection, there were murmurs that the high command did not approve of many names that were recommended by the state. “The central leadership is clear that tickets will not be given to family members unless there is a proven record of work. The final list was delayed on account of some last-minute changes and because the party did not want rebels to spoil the show,” added the second party functionary.

That could still happen. The deadline for filing nominations is April 20.

To be sure, senior BJP leaders stepping away from electoral politics on the eve of elections is not unprecedented. In Gujarat, which went to polls in December, former chief minister Vijay Rupani, former deputy chief minister Nitin Patel and senior party leader Bhupendrasinh Chudasama announced their decision of not contesting the assembly election ahead of the polls.

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