Former BJP leader Jagadish Shettar has committed a ”political blunder” by joining its rival Congress and should have rather fought as an independent candidate since that gave him a better chance of winning in the May 10 Assembly polls, senior ruling party leader and Karnataka Assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Hedge Kageri has said.
In an interview to PTI, Kageri said, there could have been some impact had Shettar not joined the Congress. ”By joining the Congress, it became negative,” the senior BJP leader said.
Shettar, also a former chief minister, defected to the Congress over denial of a ticket to contest from Hubli-Dharwad Central assembly segment, from where he has been winning since 1994. Kageri said Shettar is one of his closest friends. When he had come to submit the resignation letter, he tried to convince Shettar for two hours, but in vain. ”I was really upset that day,” he added.
”He has committed a mistake by joining Congress. He should have either kept quiet or fought as an Independent candidate,” he said. If Shettar wins as an Independent candidate, it would not have come as a surprise. ”He would have won on sympathy. He spoiled everything by joining the Congress. It is a political blunder,” he added.
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Kageri, who is contesting for re-election for the seventh time from Sirsi assembly segment, denied winning elections based on Hindutva and listed out the development works undertaken in his constituency.
”Hindutva is our belief. We have no hesitation in following it. However, as an elected representative I have to do development work and that is my primary duty. I have been doing it. I have done development work. Nobody will say I have not done it. Even the Opposition is not strong enough to say I have not delivered on this count. They say I could have done even more,” he said.
On Congress’ poll promise to ban Bajrang Dal, Kageri accused the opposition party ”has been hurting the majority communities to please the minorities. It has been serving based on this belief.”
There are 2.08 lakh voters in Sirsi assembly seat dominated by the Ediga community (52,000) followed by Brahmins (44,000) and Muslims (15,000). Congress has fielded Bhimanna Naik, while Hitendra Naik is contesting on behalf of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Congress candidate Bhimanna Naik alleged Kageri has been winning from this seat based on Hindutva and not done any development work in the constituency. There are no roads and water facilities in remote villages, while encroachment of forest land is a major issue.
Sirsi has been a stronghold of BJP ever since 1999 and a tough contest between the saffron party and the grand old party is on the cards.