For Hoskote, BJP Bets Big On MTB Nagaraj As Karnataka Bypolls Near

The uber-rich candidate is fighting to win Hoskote again, this time as a BJP candidate.

MTB Nagaraj was a Congress leader before he switched allegiance to the BJP.

Bengaluru:

With the political drama in Maharashtra subsiding, the focus has now turned to the upcoming electoral contest in neighbouring Karnataka.

On December 5, the southern state will witness bypolls to 15 assembly seats vacated by former Congress and Janata Dal Secular MLAs who switched allegiance to the BJP earlier this year. The BJP, which rules Karnataka now, has fielded 13 of the defectors in those seats to consolidate its position in the state assembly.

One such defector is MTB Nagaraj, the uber-rich former Congress MLA from Hoskote who hit the spotlight in July when he promised his support to coalition leaders before flying off to join the other rebel MLAs in Mumbai. He is now trying to win Hoskote again, this time as a BJP candidate. "I did not resign from the coalition government for power or anything for myself. I just want my constituency to progress," he told NDTV.

Interestingly, Mr Nagaraj's wealth grew from a not-too-shabby Rs 1,015 crore in 2018 to over 1,200 crore at the time of filing his nomination. But the politician has dismissed all questions regarding his newfound wealth. "I have been a businessman for 40 years. I have worked hard and earned money that I have now declared. What is wrong with that? It isn't black money or benami property," he said.

Even though they played a major role in bringing down the previous Congress-Janata Dal Secular government, Mr Nagaraj and the other new arrivals were not universally welcomed into the BJP. Among the dissidents was Sharath Bache Gowda, son of sitting MP Bache Gowda, who decided to contest against the BJP candidate in Hoskote as an independent at the cost of being expelled from the party.

"I have been associated with this constituency for over three generations, and am getting a really good response. Although I am contesting as an independent, I think that the chances of people giving me their blessings and votes are really good. It was with a heavy heart that I accepted their decision to expel me," Sharath Bache Gowda told NDTV.

Although the Congress and Janata Dal Secular are contesting separately, given that their coalition is in shreds, they do hope that the voters will reject the defectors. "This is the first time I am contesting the elections, but I know the people of Hoskote well. They are treating me with a lot of affection," said Padmavathi Suresh, the Congress candidate from Hoskote.

Her husband, Byrathi Suresh, agreed. "The Congress fielded MTB Nagaraj from this constituency three times, but he cheated the party in the middle of the night. He cheated the people of Hoskote and joined the communal BJP. We must defeat him," he said.

The BJP needs to win at least six seats to achieve a majority in the 224-member state assembly.
 

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