Presenting communal sentiments yet again, Karnataka’s Rural Development Minister K. S. Eshwarappa on November 28, 2020 said that there was no question of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fielding a Muslim for the bye-election of the Belagavi Lok Sabha seat.

“We (BJP) might give the party ticket to any community of Hindus. Whoever we might give it to – maybe Lingayats, Kurubas, Vokkaligas, or Brahmins – but there’s no question of us giving tickets to Muslims in Belagavi,” said Eshwarappa while addressing the media on Saturday.

The Belagavi seat recently became vacant after the death of Union Minister of State for Railways Suresh Angadi due to Covid-19. Although the date for the bypoll is yet to be announced by the Election Commission, Eshwarappa made it clear that he would not allow a Muslim to contest in one of the “centres of Hindutva.”

The comment has garnered tremendous criticism towards Eshwarappa and the party.

He tried to justify this caustic comment by stating that only that candidate who wins the trust of people would be selected. However, considering the state Minister’s previous comments along with his bigoted history, the flimsy excuse hardly stands its ground.

On September 23, 2019, SabrangIndia had called out the Minister for using a caste slur against the Vaddar community on the eve of 15 by-elections in Karnataka.

In April of the same year, Eshwarappa in the state’s Koppal city said that BJP will not give tickets to Muslims to contest the elections because the community does not believe in the party. At the time, he had said, “We won’t give tickets to Muslims in Karnataka. Believe us and we’ll give you tickets and other things.”

Even before that, during the 2018 Assembly elections, Eshwarappa called Muslims from the Congress party “killers” while the Muslims supporting the BJP were “good Muslims.”

“Muslims who killed 22 RSS and BJP activists are with the Congress and those who are good Muslims are with the BJP,” Eshwarappa had said then.

The right-wing proponent has been closely related to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) officials ever since childhood. His classmate went on to become an RSS leader while a well-known VHP leader in Shimoga encouraged him to embrace the life of an RSS activist. Even as a student, he worked with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) affiliated with the RSS.

While the BJP claims to have distanced itself from the Minister, a state spokesperson of the party Malavika Avinash defended Eshwarappa’s statement by saying that he had talked about the ticket in terms of “winnability.” If so, then it is truly saddening that a state Minister would discriminate on the basis of religion simply for increasing chances of winning a local election.

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