After B S Yediyurappa, K S Eshwarappa was considered the leader instrumental in building the BJP in Karnataka. On Tuesday, he began his journey to the margins of the party, like the veteran before him.
Ahead of the release of the BJP’s first names for the Karnataka polls, the 74-year-old Eshwarappa, a former deputy chief minister, announced that he wishes to retire from electoral politics and had asked the party not to field him in the coming Assembly polls. He said he was staying away to help the BJP reach a majority.
This is an unlikely docile retreat for the outspoken Kuruba leader who has never been far from controversy in the state, in his over 40-year political career. And has been fighting to stay on after resignation as minister last year over a corruption charge.
Eshwarappa, who belongs to Shivamogga district like Yediyurappa, wrote to BJP president J P Nadda announcing his decision to “voluntarily” retire from electoral politics. He expressed his “gratitude” to party seniors, for giving him honorable positions during his long career, starting from the booth level.
Eshwarappa also said that he had personally asked state leaders not to recommend his name for his constituency. Asked whether he had shared this at state-level BJP meetings on April 6-7, he said: “I did not tell it during meetings. But, I personally informed all senior leaders.”
Eshwarappa’s announcement comes amid speculation that the central leadership was weighing denying him a ticket for the polls. He is learnt to have been pushing for the candidature of his son K E Kantesh from his Shimoga seat, and it is not clear if that has gone through, with the high command seen as leaning towards a local doctor, Dhananjay Sarji.
While Eshwarappa is turning 75 in June, the unofficial age bar in the BJP for leaders to contest polls and hold official positions, there have been occasional exceptions as well.
A five-time MLA from Shimoga, and earlier a long-time RSS leader, Eshwarappa served several terms as minister, holding various portfolios. Last year, he quit as Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister after a contractor killed himself, accusing him in his suicide note of demanding 40% commission for awarding payment for civil works.
After a police probe gave him a clean chit, Eshwarappa is said to have sought reinstatement in the Cabinet. However, the party had not paid heed to it.
Earlier this month, Eshwarappa was in the news for his remarks asking whether ‘Allah was deaf’, at a rally in Mangaluru. Such polarising statements are not new to the leader, who was part of the funeral procession of a murdered Hindu activist in Shivamogga last year where slogans that were raised led to violence. In February last year, he grabbed headlines for saying that the saffron flag may replace the Tricolor as national flag in the future.
The Lokayukta police is investigating cases of corruption against Eshwarappa during his tenure as deputy CM. In 2020, a single judge of the High Court allowed reinstatement of the corruption allegation against Eshwarappa, his son and daughter-in-law. A private complaint in the matter is still before the courts.
In another corruption case, Eshwarappa and his family members are accused of amassing wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income.
© The Indian Express (P) Ltd
First published on: 11-04-2023 at 19:21 IST