Hubbali: Former Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar — contesting on a Congress ticket hoping to reclaim his lost self-respect– still has photos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah hanging on a wall in his home-office and says it is not good to remove them.
The photos adorn the wall although he is hurt the BJP chose not to pick him for the May 10 assembly elections.
Having represented Hubli-Dharwad Central since 1994 on a BJP ticket, Shettar, however claimed the saffron party had no “address” earlier there and that he built it since then, making it a “Shettar vs Congress” battle ever since.
After severing his decades-old ties with the saffron party, Shettar now in his last leg of political career puts a Congress flag on his car and sets out for campaigning along with the party workers.
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Trying to put the past aside, Shettar is meeting supporters and party workers at his home-office sitting in his regular sofa with two photos of Modi and Shah still hung on the wall behind.
In an interview to PTI while being seated on the same chair, Shettar asked, “what is so surprising about it,” when queried why he has not removed the photos after exiting BJP.
He said: “Immediately after shifting from one party to another, removing photos of earlier leaders is not a good thing. I cannot do that.”
In the past, Shettar and his wife have said several times they have respect for Modi and Shah.
Stating this would be his last assembly election, the six-time MLA said, “this election is a fight for my self-respect, not for political aspirations. As my self-respect was damaged, I joined the Congress for my own peace without putting conditions,” he added.
BJP should have given an honourable exit for him by fielding him from here for the last time. “It did not happen due to General Secretary (Organisation) B L Santhosh who pushed for a ticket for his close associate and did all this drama,” he claimed.
Shettar further said the poll ticket was denied also because there was apprehension he may claim number one position among Lingayats after former chief minister B S Yediyurappa.
Asked if he was facing difficulty in convincing voters as a Congress candidate now, he admitted facing some “embarrassment” in the beginning. Gradually, voters are realising when told he was denied a BJP ticket without any reason.
“Nobody knows why I was denied a ticket despite having popularity, age, no criminal background and no corruption/CDs. Whereas the BJP has given tickets to 75 year-old people, family members and those who have criminal background,” he said.
Shettar mentioned he was receiving a positive public response so far and added, “I have still maintained popularity because of pro-development works. There is no anti-incumbency. I am confident of winning with a thumping majority this time.”
He said there is a “miscommunication” that he won in the last six consecutive elections with support of BJP workers and Marathas.
Shettar shared that he first contested on a BJP ticket in 1994 and before that he nurtured the saffron party for three years. Then he became president of a party unit and later the state chief.
Asserting the BJP did not have an “address” here, he said prior to 1994, the saffron party did not have any existence in the region and that its candidates had lost their deposits. “I built the party and it has always been — Shettar versus Congress.”
The former chief minister also said he was not “power hungry” and if he was then he would have become a minister in the Basavaraj Bommai-led cabinet.
“Bommai is junior to me in politics. Immediately after his swearing-in as CM, I did not join the cabinet. I have been working as an MLA for the last two years.”
On JD(S) leader C M Ibrahim’s demand to probe Shettar’s properties in and around Hubbali, he said, “I have not constructed any bungalow in Bengaluru.”
“Here also, I have limited property within the legal purview. I am not a political leader worth Rs 1,000 crore. I don’t have crores of transactions. These are all vague allegations.”
Asked if his exit has affected son’s political prospects in the BJP, Shettar said, “I always believe: one family, one power is sufficient..I am not going to insist that my children become my successor. If they have leadership and interest, they can grow.”
With a week left for voting, the Congress leader said his family has taken this election as a personal challenge.
“More than me, my wife is working hard in this election. She is campaigning for me door-to-door,” he added.