From a firebrand BJP face to rebel leader, ex-K’taka Dy CM Eshwarappa at ‘crossroads’

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From a firebrand BJP face to rebel leader, ex-K’taka Dy CM Eshwarappa at ‘crossroads’

Bengaluru: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader K.S. Eshwarappa is one of the frontline members of the party in Karnataka and has played a key role along with former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa in making the BJP a force to reckon with in the state.

The 76-year-old leader is the face of OBCs and the Kuruba community. The man who is regarded as one of the key leaders who built the BJP from scratch in Karnataka is today at ‘crossroads’, having vowed to defeat the candidate of his own party from the Shivamogga Lok Sabha constituency in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, in a strange turn of events.

Eshwarappa has announced that he will file his nomination on Friday as an Independent candidate. He also asserted he would win the seat and “dedicate his victory on the feet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.

This decision has surprised everyone.

Initially, everyone assumed that Eshwarappa would mellow down after the party’s high command spoke to him. However, his resolve to contest against the BJP candidate has become a major concern. The senior BJP leader would be contesting from Shivamogga as an Independent candidate against BJP candidate B.Y. Raghavendra — the son of Yediyurappa.

Eshwarappa wanted a BJP ticket from the Haveri Lok Sabha constituency for his son, K.E. Kanthesh. However, the party fielded former Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai from the Haveri seat — a development that made Eshwarappa upset, with the ex-Deputy CM eventually deciding to contest against Yediyurappa’s son in the Shivamogga Lok Sabha constituency.

Eshwarappa expressed his outrage against Yediyurappa for not ensuring a ticket for his son Kanthesh for the Haveri LS seat.

Following the incidents of the brutal murder of Bajrang Dal activist Harsha in Shivamogga and the suicide of a contractor Santhosh Patil, Eshwarappa was denied the ticket to contest the Assembly election from Shivamogga seat, which he represented for five terms.

When former CM Jagadish Shettar and ex-Deputy CM Laxman Savadi quit the BJP and joined the Congress last year ahead of the Karnataka Assembly polls following the denial of tickets to them, Eshwarappa remained calm and stated that he would abide by the party’s decision.

The “love-hate equation” between former Karnataka CM B.S. Yediyurappa and Eshwarappa is well known in Karnataka political circles.

Sources within the party submitted that Eshwarappa is in a “hyper-sensitive” phase of his political career. And a defeat in the upcoming election could push him to a corner in the state’s political arena.

Karnataka unit BJP president B.Y. Vijayendra has already stated that “if Eshwarappa is willing to end his political career in this manner then no one can help him”.

Eshwarappa, a seasoned campaigner, has also seen a series of setbacks in his political career. He was asked to announce his resignation from the Cabinet in connection with the case of the suicide of a contractor in April 2022. Eshwarappa was denied a ticket to contest from the Shivamogga Assembly seat which he represented traditionally. And much to his chagrin, the party allotted a ticket to his close aide Channabasappa, and he got elected.

Eshwarappa, who did not speak a word then and kept toeing the party line has rebelled this time. He has vowed to challenge the supremacy of his ‘friend-turned-foe’, B.S. Yediyurappa, in the party.

“I can’t simply sit and watch one of his sons becoming Union Minister, another becoming BJP state unit president and getting ready for the CM post. The BJP is in the clutches of the Yediyurappa family and I will get the party out of his clutches,” Eshwarappa said.

Eshwarappa’s parents were daily wage earners. Motivated by his mother’s wish to see him ‘doing good in life’, he went on to become one of the prominent politicians of Karnataka.

Eshwarappa was born in Bellary district. His father Sharanappa and mother Basamma moved to Shivamogga in the early 1950s. His parents worked as daily wage earners. As a boy, Eshwarappa wanted to join his parents in the work. However, his mother did not allow him, and asked him to focus on education and “earn a good name in the society”.

His mother’s words motivated him to continue his studies, and more so, focus on social work. Later, he was introduced to RSS through Narasimha Murthy Iyengar, a VHP leader from Shivamogga.

Since then, Eshwarappa never turned back in his life.

From a student leader in ABVP, he became city unit president of the BJP in Shivamogga and went on to establish himself as a mass leader by defeating a heavyweight leader, then minister K.H. Srinivas, in the 1989 Karnataka Assembly elections.

To date, he lost only once in elections from the Shivamogga Assembly segment. Eshwarappa became Deputy Chief Minister in the erstwhile Jagadish Shettar-led Cabinet in 2012. He served as the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister in the previous Basavaraj Bommai-led Cabinet.

He was also appointed state unit party president twice.

However, he was also known for controversial remarks throughout his political career.

Seen as a Hindutva leader, his remarks at times drew national attention.

BJP President J.P. Nadda had once advised him to “slow down” for his “hoisting the saffron flag on the Red Fort” remark.

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