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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Shobha Karandlaje: Firebrand leader from Karnataka makes it to the Union cabinet

A known loyalist of CM Yediyurappa since her early days in the party, Karandlaje was among the first prominent leaders to step out of BJP in 2012 to rally behind Yediyurappa to join the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP).

Written by Ralph Alex Arakal | Bengaluru |
Updated: July 8, 2021 10:46:46 am
Shobha Karandlaje is the Lok Sabha MP representing the Udupi-Chikkamagaluru constituency in Karnataka. (Express Photo)

Shobha Karandlaje is the new Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. The Lok Sabha MP representing the Udupi-Chikkamagaluru constituency in Karnataka is identified as one among the few firebrand leaders of the ruling party for being vocal with her remarks on contemporary issues. She is also BJP’s state Vice-President in Karnataka.

The 54-year-old originally hails from Puttur in Dakshina Kannada. While she identifies herself as a social worker, Karandlaje is a postgraduate in Social Work (MSW) and Sociology (MA).

When did Shobha Karandlaje enter politics?

Karandlaje was first picked as the Udupi District Bharatiya Janata Party Women Morcha chairperson in 1997 after which her active participation in the Sankalp Rath Yathra in 1999 led by B S Yediyurappa (Yeddyurappa then) was noted by the state leadership of BJP. Her close association with BSY is believed to have picked up since then.

She was soon picked as a secretary of the party’s Karnataka Unit in 2000 after which she made way to the Karnataka Legislative Council for the first time in 2004. Four years later, the party gave her a ticket to contest in the Legislative Assembly polls from the Yeshwanthpur segment in Bengaluru when she became an MLA for the first time.

Interestingly, she was offered the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj portfolio in the cabinet, when she was 42. However, she was made to resign from the Cabinet based on a compromise formula worked out by the BJP High Command to work defuse in-party differences between two factions.

Fondly called ‘Shobhakka’ by her supporters, she was soon picked again as the Energy Minister in the Jagadish Shettar-led cabinet when she was also given the concurrent charge to handle Food and Civil Supplies. Interestingly, she was the lone woman minister in the state cabinet then. Further, as BSY formed the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) breaking away from BJP, she resigned her ministership to quit the BJP cabinet.

Later, Karandlaje faced huge disappointment as she lost as a KJP candidate in the 2013 assembly polls from RR Nagar in Bengaluru to S Suresh Kumar. Nonetheless, BSY decided to join hands with BJP after the elections as Karandlaje also made her way back to the saffron party. This opened up new possibilities for her as she tasted success in her first contest to the Lok Sabha from Udupi – Chikkamagalurum, the constituency which she represents to date.

In 2019, Karandlaje had improved her majority by over 60,000 votes from that of 2014 to record a majority of over 2.4 lakh votes. After her re-election to the 17th Lok Sabha in 2019, she was first picked as a member of the Standing Committee on Energy, and later to the Committee on Empowerment of Women and the Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

What are the controversies Karandlaje faced in her political career?

Karandlaje’s ‘firebrand’ classification is often cited to her frequent public remarks with a communal fervour. Her remarks against alleged attacks on right-wing workers in communally sensitive areas of coastal Karnataka have, in a way, contributed to her increased popularity among party cadres in the state and even nationally to an extent.

Also a popular figure online with a following of over 2.7 lakh on Twitter, Karandlaje has also seen herself at the receiving end of controversies. In one such instance, an FIR was filed by the Kerala police in January 2020 against her for allegedly promoting religious hatred. The action was taken based on her tweet that mentioned that several Hindu families in Malappuram district were being denied water as they supported the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.

Among other recent controversies were the MP’s demand for more police scrutiny at Kerala’s borders to keep a check on the increasing number of people visiting Karnataka in February 2020 (pre-Covid), and alleging the involvement of Keralites in the violent anti-CAA protests in Mangaluru among others.

In addition to these, her highly divisive tweets on issues like women’s entry to the Sabarimala temple, criticism on the Left Democratic Front-led government there, and terming Kerala a “breeding ground for terrorists” have also been noted as her newfound interest in matters of the neighbouring state. Clarifying this, she once tweeted, “Why am I raising Kerala issues? Often came through these questions. How can I ignore my Hindus brothers, who are fighting whole of anti-Hindu elements in Kerala?!!” (sic).

How is her induction expected to affect the political scenario in Karnataka?

Karandlaje’s induction to the Modi-led Union cabinet is expected to have a standing impact with several consequences in the state politics of Karnataka. A known loyalist of CM Yediyurappa since her early days in the party, she was among the first prominent leaders to step out of BJP in 2012 to rally behind Yediyurappa to join the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP).

As a Vokkaliga leader, her close association with BSY, is also cited by many as what led towards making the Linagayat-Vokkaliga combination a political trend in Karnataka

However, she was asked to keep a low profile and to distance herself from Yediyurappa and state affairs since the incumbent state government came to power in 2019. Her silence as different camps within the party continue to propose and oppose the need for a new CM in the state is also noteworthy.

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