Anant Kumar Hegde and controversies are often considered synonymous in Karnataka politics. Known as the face of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) hard-line Hindutva politics in Karnataka, Hegde has played a key role in communally polarising the coastal region of Karnataka during the party’s early days in the state.
In recent times, from demanding to remove the word ‘secular’ from the Constitution to ordering cutting the hands of those who touch Hindu women, Hegde has kept himself in the political limelight with his outrageous statements. His elevation to union minister in 2017 too, is linked to his extremist views.
But when the BJP announced its list of star campaigners for the state ahead of the elections, Hegde’s name was missing from the list, even though his colleague in the central government Sadananda Gowda and even a politically inexperienced actor-turned-BJP worker Jaggesh found a place.
Mr @AnantkumarH, your language depicts your culture.But unfortunately you were a minister & now an MP candidate.Don't use terms related to mental illnesses to spit venom.There are 1000s of people and their families who suffer silently from mental illness. https://t.co/ewA9Lt1jg0— H D Kumaraswamy (@hd_kumaraswamy) March 28, 2019
According to sources, despite his national fame (or infamy), he would restrict his campaign to his constituency (Uttara Kannada) and two neighbouring districts.
BJP Defends Decision Despite Differences
Being a five-time MP from Uttara Kannada district, his nomination in the 2019 general election was expected. However, to Hegde and his supporter’s surprise, the state leadership proposed Dr GG Hegde as a second candidate for Uttara Kannada. Even though Hegde’s candidature eventually went through uncontested, according to sources, it was the state leadership’s message to convey its displeasure over the controversies created by Hegde.
But when The Quint contacted the BJP, its leaders said the list of star campaigners was more to do with the campaign finances than being a “merit list” of campaigners.
"“A star campaigner’s travel and other costs are not added to the individual candidate’s expenditure, which is limited to Rs 25 lakh. So Anant Kumar Hegde’s name not being in the list doesn’t mean he isn’t important.”" - A senior BJP leader.So Why Isn’t he a Star Campaigner?
Explaining the party’s decision, a senior BJP leader explained that although Hegde is known nationally because of the controversy, his influence is only limited to the coastal region.
"“Even if you look at the Assembly elections, Hindutva as an issue worked only in the coastal districts, which has a strong pro-Hindu sentiment. Even when Yogi Adityanath came to Karnataka during Assembly polls, his main campaign was in this region.” " - BJP leader
In the other parts of the state, especially in north and south Karnataka, caste equations and developmental promises play a big role. In these regions, Hegde’s communal speeches are expected to have little effect.
Hegde to Restrict Himself to Coastal Karnataka
Out of the 28 seats in Karnataka, coastal Karnataka has three seats – Uttara Kannada, Dakshin Kannda and Udupi-Chikkamagaluru. Anant Kumar Hegde is the candidate from Uttara Kannada.
Sources in the BJP said that Hegde will be campaigning in only these three constituencies and would focus more on his own campaign. Although there were plans of him campaigning in parts of north Karnataka, the plans remain suspended, the leader added.
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