Nirmala Sitharaman, comedian Jaggesh are BJP’s Rajya Sabha picks from Karnataka
The BJP has chosen Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Kannada comedian Jaggesh, from the dominant Vokkaliga community, as its candidates for the two guaranteed seats to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka in polls to be held on June 10.
The BJP, which has a total of 121 MLAs in the Assembly, can win two of the four vacant seats in the Upper House of Parliament. A candidate requires a minimum of 45.2 votes to win the polls from the 224-member House.
The Rajya Sabha elections in the state are necessitated by the retirement of Sitharaman, KC Ramamurthy of the BJP and Jairam Ramesh of the Congress at the end of June. A fourth seat is vacant on account of the death of Congress leader Oscar Fernandes earlier this year. Fernandes’s tenure was also scheduled to end in June.
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Contrary to expectations of the BJP moving Sitharaman to a state where the saffron party is on a stronger footing, such as Uttar Pradesh, the party has chosen her to be its candidate from the southern state again. Sitharaman was not expected to be fielded from the state also on account of social media campaigns in favour of local seat aspirants.
In order to balance the choice of Sitharaman with a candidate having a local connection, the BJP has pulled off a surprise by choosing film star S Jaggesh—a member of the Vokkaliga community, which the party is trying to woo for the 2023 Assembly elections—as its second candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls.
The BJP had earlier disappointed the Vokkaliga community, influential in south Karnataka, in its choice of candidates for four Legislative Council seats by overlooking a candidate from the community, C Manjula, at the last moment in favour of a scheduled tribe candidate, Hemalatha Nayak.
Jaggesh was in the Congress before switching to the BJP in 2008, when the saffron party carried out its infamous Operation Lotus to get Congress and JD(S) leaders to quit and contest polls as BJP candidates. The party was then falling short of a clear majority by five MLAs in the Assembly polls.
Jaggesh was earlier rewarded with an appointment as chairman of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation. He was also appointed as an MLC subsequently but has still not managed to emerge as a Vokkaliga leader of any standing.
Among the front-runners for the BJP’s Rajya Sabha tickets were treasurer Lahar Singh, general secretary Nirmal Kumar Surana, outgoing Rajya Sabha member Ramamurthy and women’s wing leader Geetha Vivekanand.
Ramamurthy, a former police officer and a wealthy educationist, had quit the Rajya Sabha as a Congress member in the middle of his current term and was later re-elected as a BJP member. He belongs to the wealthy, landholding Reddy community in Bengaluru. Surana, a member of the Jain community, opted out of the race last week.
The BJP was expected to make a push to win three of the four seats. The Congress is expected to nominate its veteran parliamentarian Ramesh to the Upper House again. He held talks with state party chief DK Shivakumar and Congress House leader Siddaramaiah over the polls. The Opposition party, which has 69 MLAs, can send one candidate to the Rajya Sabha.
With the BJP naming only two official candidates and the Congress expected to field only Ramesh, the field has been left open for wealthy fourth-seat aspirants to woo and win the support of the BJP, Congress, and the JD(S)—which has 32 votes.
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The name of a wealthy real estate baron—Kupendra Reddy—who was a Rajya Sabha member between 2014 and 2020 with the support of the JD(S) is making the rounds as the fourth candidate with the party’s backing. Reddy will be dependent on the excess votes available with the Congress and the BJP to clinch victory.
The BJP’s Lahar Singh, from the Jain community, may also enter the fray as a fourth candidate if he gets the high command’s go-ahead.
The last date for filing the nominations for the Rajya Sabha polls is May 31. The BJP is keen on increasing its representation in the Upper House of Parliament as it is nervous about the narrow balance of electoral college votes ahead of the presidential election in July, sources said.