The people of northern Karnataka considered the Prime Minister a ‘devatha manushya’ (divine person) and ‘rajakiya santa’ (political saint), BJP leader and Industries Minister Murugesh Nirani said, stating that Narendra Modi’s campaigning in the next few days would turn around the situation in the state in favour of the saffron party.
Speaking to PTI, Nirani, who is contesting from Bilgi constituency in Bagalkote district, also said the exit of senior BJP Lingayat leader Jagadish Shettar would not impact the party because the ”turncoat” leader was being ”selfish” despite having had the opportunity to hold all the posts, including that of chief minister.
”He enjoyed all the posts. We offered him a central ministry and blank B-form to give it to anybody but he did not agree. He is selfish and wants everything for himself,” he said.
Asked about Prime Minister Modi’s final leg of campaigning in the state, Nirani said, ”In northern Karnataka, Modi is treated as ‘devatha manushya’ like Shree Swami Siddeshwar who is known as ‘nadedao narayan’ (living god). Swamiji does not have a pocket nor bank account or property. Modi has pockets but no desires. For him, serving the nation is everything. He is ‘rajakiya santa’ (political saint) and people are coming to see him in rallies.” With nine more days left for polling on May 10, and more central leaders travelling here for campaigning, ”we will definitely cross 120 seats easily and form the government,” he said Confident that Lingyats stand with the BJP, Nirani said the community would never vote for the Congress which in the past has insulted two top Lingayat leaders S Nijalingappa and Veerendra Patil. These leaders were removed as chief ministers, and that was a major insult to the community. After them, there has never been a CM from the community in Congress. However, he said, ”Suppose they announce a CM candidate in future, all Lingayats may vote for Congress.” But he asserted that Shettar would lose the election this time. The Lingayats form nearly 17 per cent of the population, and the BJP has over the years managed to get the maximum support from that vote bank. The fact that the BJP has brought B S Yediyurappa back as its mascot for the upcoming elections is also a signal of how important the Lingayat vote bank is. Nirani, who was instrumental in the Panchamasali Lingayat subset’s protest in the state over reservation, said the demand was to shift the classification of the sect from 3B to 2A in the Other Backward Classes (OBC). ”The Panchamasali caste of Lingayats has been demanding inclusion in the 2A category. However, it did not happen. We understand the situation. Instead, a new category 2D was created,” he said. Two per cent additional reservation was given to Veerashiva Lingayats, not particularly for Panchamasali, he said and added that the expectation had been for more but ”at least we got two per cent”. The state has four categories of OBC: 2A, 2B, 3A and 3B based on economic, social and educational status. These communities get preferential reservations in jobs and educational institutions based on the categories. While 2A is the most backward, 2B is moderate, and a little above them is 3A and 3B. The government has now created two new categories: 2C and 2D, to include the Lingayats and Vokkaligas. Highlighting the measures taken by the industries ministry which he heads, Nirani said the state had attracted a global investment of Rs 2.40 lakh crore this year, and some of the projects were being implemented. About 90 projects approved are outside Bengaluru, he said. In Bilgi constituency, the BJP leader said a Rs 1,200 crore project to provide irrigation has commenced. With the completion of this project, the entire constituency will be irrigated in the next two years, he claimed. A project to refill tanks is also underway and would be completed in the next 2-3 months, the minister added. An airport project at a cost of Rs 500 crore is also coming up here for which 400 acres of land has already been acquired, while 1,600 acres has been acquired for setting up a special township in the next two years, which will provide employment to 20,000 people, he claimed.