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Denied cabinet berth in new NDA govt, Dalit Karnataka BJP MP calls out own party as being ‘anti-Dalit'

7-time MP Ramesh Jigajinagi is from Madiga community classified as ‘SC-Left’ in the state. BJP downplays his comments, says 'party will fix all these issues'.

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Bengaluru: A senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and member of Parliament from Vijayapura (Bijapur) in Karnataka has called out his own party for denying Dalits leaders from the state a place in the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Union cabinet.

Ramesh Jigajinagi, the seven-time MP from Karnataka said he did not know whether it was “justice or injustice” that he was denied a cabinet berth in the new government that took oath on 9 June.

“I don’t know if it is justice or injustice…in all of south India, as a Dalit person, I am the only one who has won seven times (for parliament). All upper caste (leaders) became (ministers). Does that mean that Dalits did not support the BJP at all? I am very pained by this,” Jigajinagi told reporters in Vijayapura, located about 520 km from Bengaluru.

He went on to say that many members of the Dalit community and his supporters had ‘spat’ at him for joining the BJP.

“Many people had argued and told me this party is anti-Dalit and that I should not join them (BJP). It’s not from my side but there is pressure from the people,” the former Union minister said.

Jigajinagi is from the backward Madiga community that is classified as ‘SC-Left’ in Karnataka.

The BJP is believed to enjoy the support of this section of the SC community while the Congress largely banks on ‘SC-Right’.

In Karnataka, communities classified as Scheduled Castes (SC) are largely divided as ‘SC-Left’ and ‘SC-Right’.

Of the 71 members who were inducted into the Union cabinet alongside Prime Minister Modi on 9 June, there are 10 Dalits, 27 from Other Backward Classes, 21 from upper caste, five from tribal groups and five from religious minorities, excluding Muslims.

Also read: ‘A Rs 4,000-cr scandal’ — Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah, his wife & loyalists in eye of MUDA ‘scam’ storm

‘Peshwa descendants’ 

The BJP replaced nine out of 25 of its sitting MPs from Karnataka in the Lok Sabha elections and won 17 seats out of the 28 while its alliance partner, Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), won two out of the three it contested.

Pralhad Joshi and H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) were made cabinet ministers while Shobha Karandlaje and V. Somanna were inducted as ministers of state.

Joshi is a Brahmin, Kumaraswamy and Karandlaje are from the Vokkaliga community while Somanna is a Lingayat. Nirmala Sitharaman is also a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka.

The Congress party Tuesday said that it was not possible to expect pro-Dalit politics from the BJP.

In a post on X, the Congress party from its official handle, reiterated Jigajinagi’s statements and said that “it is impossible for Dalits to dream of power from the BJP party which is trampling without allowing Dalit leaders to grow and come close to power.”

In its post, the Congress party’s state unit also said that the BJP does not recognise oppressed sections as they are not “Peshwa descendants”, taking a veiled shot at Kumaraswamy’s earlier statement on Joshi.

In February last year, Kumaraswamy, two-time chief minister of Karnataka and state president of the JD(S) took potshots at the BJP for forcing B.S. Yediyurappa to step down from the top chair.

At the time, he said that the BJP and its ideological parent, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), wanted to replace Yediyurappa with Joshi but decided against it, fearing a backlash from the dominant Lingayat community.

Jigajinagi, who entered the state legislature in 1983, was a three-time MLA and held important portfolios, including home and revenue departments. In 1998, he first contested the Lok Sabha mid-term polls as a candidate of the Lok Shakti party and then as Janata Dal in 1999. He contested three Lok Sabha polls from Chikkodi, when it was reserved and then moved to his home district of Vijayapura when it was made an SC seat. He joined the BJP in 2004.

He had served as minister of state for water and sanitation in 2016 in the first Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. But he was dropped in the second Modi government and has not been able to return to the Union cabinet since. He won by a margin of 77,000 votes in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP downplayed Jigajinagi’s comments.

“The party will fix all these issues and B.Y. Vijayendra has also taken up such discussions. Even at the national level, leaders are aware of these issues. There were many reshuffles in the Union cabinet in earlier terms. Even A. Narayanaswamy (former BJP MP from Chitradurga) did not get a berth in two reshuffles but eventually in the third one. In this case also it may happen but the party will decide on its benefits and limitations,” Chalavadhi Narayanaswamy, MLC from Karnataka and head of the BJP’s SC Morcha told INDIANEXPOSE.

‘BJP lost both SC-Right seats’

In the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP and JD(S) formed a pre-poll alliance with the latter contesting three out of the 28 seats while the former contested 25 to take on the Congress.

In Karnataka, there are five constituencies reserved for SC, two for ST (scheduled tribes) and the remaining are general.

The five SC reserved seats are Chamarajanagar, Kolar, Vijayapura, Chitradurga and Kalaburagi (Gulbarga), of which the BJP won just two.

Jigajinagi won from Vijayapura, and Govind Karjol, a senior BJP leader and former Deputy CM, won from Chitradurga.

In Karnataka, it is believed that the BJP enjoys more support from SC-Left while the Congress gets the backing of SC-Right.

Mallikarjuna Kharge, the national president of the Congress party, is from the Holeya community that is classified as SC-Right.

“Karjol also won and there were coalition compulsions which could not be ignored this time. There was JD(S), our alliance partner, who also needed to be accommodated in the cabinet. For Jigajinagi, his (Lok Sabha) ticket itself was in question and he is now upset about not getting a cabinet berth,” said one BJP leader from Karnataka, requesting anonymity.

The leader added that he ‘agrees’ with Jigajinagi that more SC leaders needed to be included in the Union cabinet, but several others from backward communities, including alliance partners, have since found a place in Modi's council of ministers.

The leader also acknowledged that it had conceded SC-right support base after it failed to win two other seats from where it contested. JD(S) won from Kolar but the BJP lost from Chamarajanagar and Kalaburagi.

“BJP lost both SC-Right seats,” the leader said. In 2019, the BJP had won from both seats.

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also read: Karnataka BJP MLA says Rahul should be slapped in Parliament, Congress dares him to touch LoP

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