A five-time BJP MP from Uttara Kannada constituency, Anantkumar Hegde, 48, who took charge as Minister of State for Skill Development on Monday, was not allowed to travel to Delhi for over six months this year after he was accused of assaulting doctors at a private hospital in his hometown of Sirsi on January 2. Hegde remains the prime accused in the case — a chargesheet has been filed and the matter is set to be taken up by a magistrate’s court on October 21. The police case against Hegde says that he beat up Dr Madhukeshwar, Dr Balachandra Bhat and Dr Rahul Mashlekar on the night of January 2, for not treating his mother who had been taken to the TSS Hospital with a broken leg in the evening. The hospital claimed that Hegde’s brother wanted to move their mother to another hospital after a surgery was recommended, and they had provided the necessary first aid and pain management required for her.
Though the doctors and the hospital authorities refused to file a complaint against Hegde, the police registered a suo motu case against him on January 5, on the basis of CCTV footage from the hospital showing the assault, which was aired on news channels.
Hegde was booked under Section 4 of the Karnataka Prohibition of Violence against Medicare Service Personnel and Damage to Property in Medicare Service Institutions Act of 2009 and under Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 504 (intentional insult to provoke breach of peace), and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
On January 19, the Karwar district court granted anticipatory bail, but barred him from leaving the district during the pendency of the case. But in July, Hegde sought the court’s permission to attend the Monsoon Session of Parliament from July 17 to August 11, while claiming that the police had filed a false case against him.
On July 15, after noting that the Sirsi police had failed to file a chargesheet against Hegde even after six months, the Karwar court relaxed his bail conditions and allowed him to travel to attend the Monsoon Session. The chargesheet has since been filed.
Hegde is also an accused in a hate speech case, under Section 295 A of the IPC, for allegedly making inflammatory statements about Islam at a press conference in Sirsi town on February 28, 2016. Charges are set to be framed in the case on October 19.
Responding to a question on a number of Muslim youths from Bhatkal town in his constituency being arrested on terrorism charges, Hegde was reported to have said: “As long as there is Islam in this world, there will be terrorism. Until we eradicate Islam from the world, we will not be able to eliminate terrorism from the world’’. He was reported to have called Islam a “ticking bomb’’.
A case was registered by the Sirsi police on the basis of a complaint filed by a Congress leader, Luqmaan Bantwal. Hegde was granted anticipatory bail in this case on March 24, 2016, under the condition that he must not deliberately and maliciously outrage religious feelings. Hegde claimed that a false case was registered against him on the basis of a complaint filed by a person nursing enmity.
“There are two cases pending currently. The hearings have not started in these cases. They are both recent cases,’’ said the new minister’s personal aide, Suresh Kumar, when contacted at Hegde’s Delhi residence on Monday. In the past, many cases of rioting and inciting violence have been registered against Hegde. He was first accused of rioting, unlawful assembly and promoting enmity in 1993, when he was allegedly a part of Hindu mobs involved in riots in Bhatkal.
He caught the attention of the Sangh Parivar leadership on August 15, 1994, when, as a 25-year-old, he dodged prohibitory orders and slipped into the disputed Idgah Maidan in Hubli, with two other activists, to raise the national flag on the prayer ground. The riots and police firing in the incident led to as many as eight deaths.
Hegde was rewarded by the BJP with a ticket to contest the Uttara Kannada parliamentary seat in 1996, when he defeated sitting Congress MP Margaret Alva — he has consistently won the seat since then, mostly by polarising voters by targeting Muslims who make up just 1.70 lakh of the nearly 14 lakh electorate.
Ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Hegde played the communal card, alleging that Congress leader R V Deshpande, whose son Prashant was pitted against him, had sheltered Indian Mujahideen terrorists like Riyaz Bhatkal and Yasin Bhatkal in Bhatkal. The communal card, weak Opposition candidates, and Modi wave ensured that Hegde was elected to the Lok Sabha for a fifth consecutive term.
A black belt in Tae Kwon Do, Hegde, who is also a businessman, studied only till Class XII, before working odd jobs as a cleaner in a petrol bunk and daily wager in a Mysore market. A few years ago, he commissioned a documentary about himself, titled “The Real Hindu”, to spread his own legend, in which one of his achievements is listed as the “ghar wapsi” of 300 Christian converts.