Karnataka: RSS picks Jnanendra to take over mantle from BJP stalwarts

Bengaluru: Karnataka’s newest minister, Aaraga Jnanendra, is not only a Sangh Parivar veteran, but also someone who groomed himself as a farmer leader.

However, he was always overshadowed by leaders like former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, K.S. Eshwarappa and ex-Legislative Council Chairman D.H. Shankaramurthy from his own district, Shivamogga.

On Wednesday, Jnanendra, the four-time MLA from Thirthahalli Assembly constituency, became a minister in the state cabinet headed by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai after a political career spanning over four decades.

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The Shivamogga district is considered to be one of Sangh Parivar’s backyards in Karnataka, which has groomed many leaders in its ‘shakhas’, including present RSS General Secretary Dattatreya Hosabale.

Jnanendra, the eldest among 10 siblings, was born in Thirthahalli and it was RSS leader Taragolli Nagaraj who came to the rescue of Jnanendra who dropped out of primary education due to acute poverty.

Under the tutelage of Rao, Jnanendra completed his B. Com degree and joined as an RSS pracharak. Due to his soft-spoken nature, he soon became the head pracharak in Thirthahalli.

During this period, RSS fielded him in the taluk board elections in 1983, but he lost his maiden polls.

Only a few leaders can boast that they rubbed shoulders with Yediyurappa from his nascent days and Jnanendra is one among them.

With Shankaramurthy already past his prime and Yediyurappa being asked to take voluntary retirement by the party high command on July 26 and OBC leader Eshwarappa turning 74 in 2023, the RSS seems to have picked Jnanendra intentionally as their successor, whom they want to groom to take over the baton from these giants in the district, keeping in mind the 2023 Assembly elections in the state.

Though he came from an RSS background and from the same district, Jnanendra never tried to grow parallel to Yediyurappa though he belonged to the Vokkaliga community, which is also politically dominant and numerically strong like Yediyurappa’s Lingayat community.

Jnanendra is the first MLA to break the jinx of winning from Thirthahalli and losing the next time, winning thrice in a row from there. He has been the BJP’s face in Thirthahalli since 1980s.

He has also been the president of the BJP’s farmer wing, the Raita Morcha, and has campaigned relentlessly in favour of Arecanut growers.

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