When rebels’ interests, BJP’s power quest intertwined

Maharashtra may have stumped India with unconventional coalition propositions, but a glimpse into the candidates in the fray for the December 5 bypolls in the state shows how ideologically flexible rebels, for whom politics is not the primary occupation, have become indispensable for BJP.

So much so that, for instance, Primary and Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar went door-to-door in Mahalakshmi Layout seeking votes for disqualified JD(S) legislator K Gopalaiah. But it was the same Gopalaiah against whom Kumar and other BJP leaders had hit the streets in protest in the late 1990s in connection with the murder of BJP worker, Prakash from Vrushabhavathi Nagar in Kamakshipalya police station limits.

Not surprisingly then, the infusion of conflicting sensibilities into the BJP has caused friction at the grassroots level. According to sources, Cabinet ministers appointed as incharges of the constituencies have warned the BJP’s state leadership of a ‘disconnect’ between the party’s original workers and migrants.

For most of the disqualified MLAs, however, politics is not their original cup of tea. The Jarkiholi brothers who are sugar barons, M T B Nagaraj who has diverse business interests and Anand Singh, a mining baron are but a few cases in point.

Ramesh and Lakhan Jarkiholi are contesting against each other from the BJP and the Congress, respectively, in Gokak. The family owns several sugar factories in the Belagavi region.

Nagaraj, BJP’s Hoskote candidate, is one of Karnataka’s richest politicians with declared assets of over Rs 1,200 crore. He owns several businesses apart from being a realtor. KR Puram’s Byrathi Basavaraj and Yeshwanthpur’s S T Somashekhar are also landlords who dabble in real estate. As per his affidavit to the Election Commission, Somashekhar also has investments in private bus services.

The BJP has also fielded two candidates with mining links. Anand Singh (Vijayanagar) was once a close associate of the Reddy brothers, the mining barons. Singh faces several charges of illegal mining and has also served jail time. He was recently acquitted by a special court for elected representatives, in one of the cases pertaining to alleged illegal export of iron ore from Belekeri port. The other is Shivaram Hebbar (Yellapur), whose family has ties with the
mining industry. His son Vivek Hebbar was also among those arrested in 2013, in the Belekeri case.

Political analyst Harish Ramaswamy summed it up thus, “This trend indicates three things - political power and economic power go hand in hand. When you have political power, your economic interests can be protected. Whenever you have both, you can be a feudal lord.” All the 15 disqualified legislators changed their party loyalties to protect their vested interests, he added.

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