Karnataka Ex-Min Eshwarappa, Sacked Amidst Graft Charges, Says, ‘We Don't Need a Single Muslim Vote'

After having lost his cabinet post following allegations of corruption, Eshwarappa has recently returned to the spotlight following a purported call made to him by PM Modi, "congratulating" him for not rebelling despite not having been given a poll ticket.

New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party veteran K.S. Eshwarappa told a gathering of Veerashaiva-Lingayat community voters in Karnataka’s Shimoga that the party “will not need a single Muslim vote” in the upcoming assembly elections.

Eshwarappa, who had to step down as Karnataka’s Rural Development and Panchayati Raj minister in April 2022 after contractor Santosh Patil ended his own life after accusing him of collecting hefty commission on public works in Belagavi, had largely fallen out of favour with his party.

PTI has reported that he had recently told the BJP’s centra brass that while he did not want a ticket for himself, he was keen for the party to give a ticket to his son, K.E. Kantesh. BJP’s ticket, however, went to one Channabasappa.

In the aftermath of this snub, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly made a phone call Eshwarappa, “congratulating” him for not rebelling despite not having been given a poll ticket, reported PTI.

The publicised call brought Eshwarappa back into the limelight, following which, at a rally in Shimoga – the mainstay of BJP veteran B.S. Yediyurappa – he said that Muslim votes are not needed by the party.

The Telegraph quoted him as having said:

“There are some 60,000 to 65,000 [Muslim] voters in the city [Shimoga]. I would like to tell you directly that we will not need a single Muslim vote…Of course, there are Muslims who received our help and will vote for us…. Nationalist Muslims will certainly vote for the BJP.”

The report notes that the remarks are at a sharp contrast with Yediyurappa’s recent claim that Modi has advised the party to reach out to Muslims.

BJP has not fielded any Muslim candidates in Karnataka for the May 10 polls. The Congress has given tickets to 14 Muslims and the Janata Dal Secular to 23 Muslims of 224 seats. Karnataka has about 13% Muslims as per the last census in 2011.

In late March, just before the Election Commission announced the poll dates, the Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government in Karnataka announced that it would scrap the 4% quota for Muslims under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category in government employment and education. This ‘2B’ category reservation was distributed among Vokkaliga and Lingayat castes instead.

Reverse Gear in Supreme Court 

In the Supreme Court though, the Karnataka government was forced to go on the backfoot after the top court observed that the decision prima-facie appeared “based on fallacious assumption and was vitiated as it was based on an interim report of a Commission”. 

On Tuesday, April 25, solicitor general Tushar Mehta once again assured the top court that the state government would not implement the order concerned until the matter is adjudicated by the court. “No appointment as per assurance by the Solicitor General would be made and no prejudice would be caused to any contention,” the bench noted in its order.

In the last hearing on April 18 also, Mehta had given a similar assurance before the court and sought more time on behalf of the state government for filing an affidavit. 

Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said reservations provided to the minorities in the state were not as per the provisions of the constitution.

“Reservations provided to the minority were not as per Constitution. There is no provision in the Constitution to provide reservation on the basis of religion,” Amit Shah said. He had also said in a rally in Telangana on April 23 that the BJP, if voted to power in that state, would scrap the quota for Muslims.