He was first appointed as the BJP President for Karnataka in 1988. He was elected as the MLA from Shikaripura in 1983, 1985, 1989, 1994, 2004, 2008, 2013, and 2018 and as the Member of Parliament in 2014 from Shimoga Lok Sabha constituency. He was Chief Minister of Karnataka in 2007, in 2008 and in 2018. Unable to get a majority support in the Assembly, he resigned just two days after taking office. He currently serves as the Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly. He left BJP and formed his own party, the Karnataka Janata Paksha, in 2011. However, in 2014 he merged his party with the BJP.