Interview: The impact of Eshwarappa quitting and what it means to the BJP’s poll prospects
Bengaluru, Apr 16: After refusing to step down initially, BJP leader KS Eshwarappa submitted his resignation from the state cabinet after getting embroiled in a controversy over the death of a contractor who accused him of bribery.
The 73-year-old leader has been booked for allegedly abetting the suicide of contractor Santosh Patil, who was found dead in a lodge at Udupi earlier this week.
However, his decision to quit has not taken many by a surprise as the state will go to the polls in the next 12 months. The resignation looked inevitable as was with the cases of Ramesh Jharkiholi and K J George. While Jharkiholi put in his papers following allegations of sexual harassment, George resigned from the previous Siddaramaiah cabinet in connection with the suicide of Deputy SP M K Ganapathy.
On March 30, deceased Patil had claimed that he had executed a work in the RDPR department and wanted the payment due to him but Eshwarappa allegedly demanded 40 per cent commission in the Rs 4 crore work.
OneIndia caught up with leading psephologist, Dr. Sandeep Shastri to discuss the resignation of Eshwarappa and the impact it would have on the BJP and its election prospects in Karnataka.
Was there Pressure for Eshwarappa to Resign?
I think the ruling party did not want any embarrassment as it prepares for the elections next year. The minister was persuaded to resign to ensure that this does not become a major election next year.
Do you think the BJP delayed action?
In all three cases rather than taking decisions early, they have taken the decision late. The issue should have been probed at the time the contractor made the allegation.
Do you think there was pressure on Eshwarappa from the central leadership?
It is very visible that some persuasion was done. Some talking was done with Eshwarappa. However, it is unclear who did the talking.
What will be the impact of Eshwarappa's resignation?
The controversy is seen as a setback to the BJP as it has given the Congress a talking point. However, it would have been a bigger setback had the BJP not taken any action. I think the first step towards damage control is persuading Eshwarappa to resign.
Will the resignation upset the BJP's Kuruba votes?
Eshwarappa is the tallest BJP leader within the Kuruba community, the fourth largest caste in Karnataka after the Lingayats, Vokkaligas and Muslims. The BJP was able to reach close to the majority mark in the 2018 state elections after a lot of shift of non-dominant OBC vote from Congress to BJP. The challenge for the BJP is to retain the OBC vote. I think there will have to be some way to placate Eshwarappa within the party. If he decides to rebel there could be serious problems for the party.
How does this benefit the Congress?
It depends on how the party is going to use this issue. There is a potential to use it but how much Congress is able to use is a different point, because Congress itself has got a lot of skeletons in its cupboard. In the past, many of its ministers had been accused similarly