In a remark that is likely to stoke controversy, Karnataka Rural Development Minister KS Eshwarappa said “there is no question of us (BJP) fielding a Muslim” in the bye-election to the Belagavi Lok Sabha seat.
The Belagavi Lok Sabha seat fell vacant following the death of Union Minister of State for Railways Suresh Angadi due to COVID-19. The date for the bypoll is yet to be announced by the Election Commission.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Eshwarappa said that Belagavi is one of the centres of Hindutva. “We might give the party ticket to any community of Hindus. Whoever we might give it to maybe Lingayats, Kurubas, Vokkaligas, or Brahmins but there is no question of us giving tickets to Muslims in Belagavi,” he said.
“We will give tickets to Hindutva proponents, I don’t know whether we will give it to followers of Sangolli Rayanna, Kittur Chennamma (freedom fighters from Karnataka) or Shankaracharya,” he added.
In April last year, Eshwarappa made a similar statement in Koppal, where he said the BJP will not give tickets to Muslims as they do not believe in the party. “Congress uses you only as a vote bank, doesn’t give you a ticket. We won’t give tickets to Muslims in Karnataka. Why? Because you don’t believe in us. Believe us and we’ll give you tickets and other things,” he had said.
However, the senior BJP leader, who is from the Kuruba community, clarified that his statement was in response to a specific question about Iqbal Ansari, a political leader from the district, getting a ticket.