Support of religious leaders is not for me or Yeddyurappa, it’s for BJP: KS Eshwarappa intv

Eshwarappa is said to have been instrumental in getting the BJP its first ever Assembly seat in the district in 1983.



What was until now a simmering tension between Karnataka BJP president BS Yeddyurappa and Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council KS Eshwarappa, is now open war.

On Thursday, Eshwarappa went ahead with the registration of the Sangolli Rayanna Brigade, an organisation to represent Dalits and backward castes, with the support of the Karnataka party in-charge Muralidhara Rao. Until the core committee meeting earlier this week, the party had maintained that no BJP leader could form or be part of any organization outside of the BJP.

Yeddyurappa is strongly opposed to Eshwarappa’s move to project himself as a backward caste leader. Although Eshwarappa is some years younger than Yeddyurappa, the two were once close. Born in Ballari district, Eshwarappa owned a business for several years in Shivamogga and is said to have been instrumental in getting the BJP its first ever Assembly seat in the district in 1983. 

However, in recent years, relations between the two leaders have soured. The latest battle being fought between the two is over caste: Yeddyurappa belongs to the socially and politically powerful Lingayat community, while Eshwarappa is a Kuruba, the same as Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. The Kuruba community is classified as OBC in Karnataka and in the theoretical caste hierarchy, is the shepherd community. It is also believed to be one of the largest Backward Caste groups in the state.

Sixty-eight-year-old Eshwarappa wishes to project himself as a Backward Caste leader, by building up a Hinda support base (Hindulida varga and Dalita, a Kannada acronym for backward classes and Dalits) through the Sangolli Rayanna Brigade (SRB). This is being seen as a counter-strategy to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s Ahinda movement. (Ahinda is a Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits.)

As the battle between the pair takes a new turn, Eshwarappa speaks to The News Minute on what the Sangolli Rayanna Brigade is, and his own role in the BJP.  

What is the Sangolli Rayanna Brigade? How different would it be from Sangolli Rayanna Hitarakshana Samiti that has been around for 10 years?
​There are many associations named after Sangolli Rayanna, most of which are headed by Kuruba people. But the Sangolli Rayanna Brigade is not just for the Kuruba community, it is also for the Backward Castes and Dalits. However, this is only for people who also support the BJP. No person belonging to any other party would be allowed to take part in meetings or activities. 

Siddaramaiah is considered the leader of the Kuruba community. Do you ever think you can be the BJP’s Kuruba face?
I agree Siddaramaiah is the Kuruba leader. Even though I am from the same community, I don't want to be the face of a caste. I would rather work on building support for the Bharatiya Janata Party. However, I will not deny that I won't dig into the Kuruba vote bank. But, I am not doing this with that intention. 

Is Siddaramaiah losing support among the Backward Castes and Dalits?
This (the Brigade) came up at a time when Dalits and the Backward Castes aren't really happy about the way the Congress government is functioning, especially when they call themselves saviours of the poor and the underprivileged. Some SRB leaders met me last week and that is when I was told there are many communities that Siddaramaiah government has ignored.

There were media reports that Yeddyurappa asked if you had more religious leaders backing you than him.

No, there was nothing of that sort. It is not about Yeddyurappa or Eshwarappa. The BJP has the blessing of 35 swamijis. During the DV Sadananda Gowda government, we donated between Rs 1 and 5 crore to the Mutts. (That’s why they support the BJP).

What is the next step? How will the Brigade help in strengthening support for BJP in the 2018 elections?
We had done a lot for the underprivileged during our tenure (2008-May 2013. In the next 18 months, we will visit all districts and remind people (of our work) with facts and figures, and not just give blind speeches about achievements. I am sure we will gain the support of Dalits and other ignored communities that way.

Courtesy: The News Minute



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