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With actor Jaggesh as its Rajya Sabha candidate, BJP targets elusive Vokkaliga votes

2023 assembly elections in mind, BJP looks to expand footprint in Vokkaliga bastions of old Mysuru region

Written by Darshan Devaiah BP | Bengaluru |
Updated: June 2, 2022 8:31:41 am
Actor Jaggesh (Express Archives)

The BJP high command’s decision to pick film actor and BJP leader Jaggesh as one of its Rajya Sabha candidates from Karnataka took its state unit – and the actor himself – by surprise but party functionaries in the state say it is a tactical move to woo Vokkaliga votes in the upcoming assembly elections.

Jaggesh, a well-known comic actor in the Kannada film industry, is a member of the Vokkaliga community, dominant in South Karnataka, especially the old Mysuru region. The saffron party has very little presence in the area as the JDS and Congress have dominated politics there over the last few decades.

“It was a surprise move since Jaggesh’s name was not discussed at the recent state BJP core committee meeting. The central leadership has decided to name Jaggesh for Rajya Sabha since he has got good followers and he is a Vokkaliga leader. The party wants to encourage more Vokkaliga leaders to woo the community for the 2023 assembly elections and more such decisions are likely in the coming days,” a senior BJP functionary told The Indian Express.

The old Mysuru region in South Karnataka consists of areas that were part of the erstwhile kingdom of Mysore – Mysuru, Mandya, Chamarajanagar, Tumakuru, Hassan, Chikmagalur, Kolar and Bengaluru and excludes coastal areas and Kodagu.

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Speaking to The Indian Express, Jaggesh, who hails from Turuvekere in Tumakuru, said, “It’s God’s blessing that I have been chosen by the party. It was a big surprise by the party high command, I have never asked the party leadership for anything and I was doing my party work diligently. However, the party has shown its confidence in me.”

The BJP has been trying to expand its footprint in Vokkaliga bastions for many years now. Union minister of state for agriculture Shobha Karandlaje, who is also from the community, is also reportedly being considered for a big position in the party’s state unit.

The BJP had earlier disappointed the Vokkaliga community in its choice of candidates for four MLC seats by overlooking Vokkaliga candidate C Manjula at the last moment in favour of Scheduled Tribe candidate Hemalatha Nayak.

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The Vokkaliga vote is decisive in the old Mysuru region and accounts for about 30 per cent of the total electorate. The ‘Vokkaliga belt’ is spread across 12 districts, accounting for 87 assembly seats. The BJP has to win a significant number of seats in the region to secure a simple majority in the 224-member Karnataka Legislative Assembly.

C N Ashwath Narayan, higher education minister and one of the prominent Vokkaliga leaders in the party, said, “The party is taking various measures to strengthen the base in the old Mysore region by giving better representation to the Vokkaliga community in the coming days.”

According to party sources, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who was in the state recently, has directed party leaders to bag at least 50 per cent of seats in the old Mysuru region. In the 2018 assembly elections, the party won 20 seats, but most of the seats were from Bengaluru Urban district. It did not perform as well in other areas.

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Meanwhile, Jaggesh, who filed his nominations on Tuesday, refused to comment on BJP wooing Vokkaliga votes. “I am a simple BJP worker and never aspired for anything, but the party has been kind to me and recognised me,” Jaggesh who had served as a BJP Member of Legislative Council, said.

In 2008, Jaggesh resigned from the Congress and the Legislative Assembly to join the saffron party. The 59-year-old was the BJP candidate in Yeshwanthpur assembly constituency in Bengaluru in the 2018 assembly elections. He lost and came third with a total of around 60,000 votes. Later, he was made the party spokesperson and also held Cabinet rank as the vice-chairman of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation.

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First published on: 01-06-2022 at 12:34:10 pm

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