Bengaluru: Union Commerce and Industry Minister Niramala Sitharaman, contesting for a Rajya Sabha seat from Karnataka, on Tuesday said she would learn Kannada and protect the state’s interests.
“Though I know Kannada a little bit, I will learn to speak in Kannada,” Sitharaman, a Tamilian, told reporters after filing nomination as a BJP candidate for the biennial election for the four vacant seats from the state on June 11.
Sitharaman, 56, was elected to the upper house from Andhra Pradesh in the previous term after she became a minister in the BJP-led NDA government in May 2014.
She replaced Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu as the party nominee from the state after he was shifted to contest from Rajasthan following opposition to him from Kannada organisations, which accused him of doing nothing for Karnataka despite being elected to the house of elders from the state for three terms since 1998.
The organisations also launched a campaign against nominating outsiders for the Rajya Sabha seats from the state.
“I will make sure Karnataka’s interests are upheld in parliament. I’m going to be a servant here as I am being sent by the Prime Minister who calls himself Pradhan Sevak,” Sitharaman asserted.
In the 225-member state assembly, which forms the electoral college, the Bharatiya Janata Party has 44 lawmakers and support of two regional allies — BSR-C and KJP, represented by three and two lawmakers in the lower house.
As each candidate requires 45 votes to win the contest from the state, Sitharaman’s election is certain with one more vote from BSR-C or KJP lawmaker.
The regional outfits are an offshoot of the BJP, its local leaders floated in 2013-14 after they broke away from it and aligned later, following its debacle in the May 2013 state assembly elections.
The four seats fell vacant by the end of terms of Congress’ Oscar Fernandes, Naidu, BJP’s lawmaker Manjunatha Aayanur by June 30, while industrialist Vijay Mallya (independent) resigned this month before his term ended.