Reality check: No bar on nepotism in BJP when it comes to elections, turncoats

For polls, BJP doesn’t ignore the “winnability” of political dynasts. Even as it criticises other parties, BJP has no qualms with dynasts.

ByNolan Patrick Pinto

Published Apr 05, 2024 | 12:00 PM Updated Apr 05, 2024 | 12:00 PM

BJP high command with Karnataka unit leaders.

For a party that claims to fight against nepotism and dynasty politics, BJP it seems, has no bar on scions of political families, children of political leaders holding top posts, joining the party and even becoming candidates for polls. Most often than not, turncoat dynasts become candidates and office bearers at the cost of party workers or ‘native’ BJP leaders.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on many occasions derided Congress and other parties for following and perpetuating what he termed, “parivarvaad, kshetravaad, and vanshvaad (nepotism, regionalism, and dynasticism)”.

But when it comes to elections, even BJP does not want to ignore the “winnability” of political dynasts. The South is important for BJP to achieve its proclaimed 370+ seat target and 400 seats of the NDA.

The five southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Telangana, and the Union Territories of Puducherry and Lakshadweep have a total of 131 seats. The BJP on its own won only 29 of them in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Karnataka gave them 25 and there were four in Telangana. It was zero in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh in 2019.

BJP under PM Modi: ‘Sins’ of corruption, nepotism get red-carpet welcome now

Nepotism in Karnataka BJP

Karnataka is considered the gateway to the South for BJP. Modi has been pushing hard to make inroads in the South, but with the exception of Karnataka, the situation in the other southern states has not been too promising. BJP, in fact, lost the 2023 Karnataka Assembly to Congress.

With names of candidates finalised for the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state, BJP and its ally — Janata Dal (Secular) — are no different when it comes to nepotism and caste equations to get voters on their side.

To begin with, BY Raghvendra — the sitting MP from Shivamogga — has been given a ticket from the same constituency.

His brother BY Vijayendra is the state unit president of the BJP, while his father BS Yediyurappa, a former chief minister, is currently a BJP parliamentary board member.

This decision has also riled former deputy chief minister KS Eshwarappa, who wanted his son Kantesh to contest in this election. KSE has now decided to contest as an independent while blaming Yediyurappa for denying Kantesh the ticket.

Yediyurappa’s importance in Karnataka politics is evident in that several of his loyalists have secured a ticket to contest.

Choice of former CM Basavaraj Bommai in Haveri, Shobha Karandlaje in Bengaluru North and Govind M Karjol in Chitradurga are all attributed to Yediyurappa. It isn’t limited just to BS Yediyurappa’s family and his confidantes.

Incumbent MP GM Siddeshwara’s wife Gayatri Siddeshwara is BJP’s candidate in Davanagere.

Then there is Tejasvi Surya, the sitting MP from Bengaluru South and national president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha. He, too, has been given the ticket to contest again. Tejasvi is the nephew of LA Ravi Subramanya, a member of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly from the Basavanagudi constituency.

Annasaheb Shankar Jolle, who is the incumbent MP and candidate from Chikkodi this time, is the husband of Nippani MLA Shashikala Annasaheb Jolle.

Dr Umesh G Jadhav, who won from the Kalaburagi Lok Sabha segment by defeating AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge in 2019 will be contesting once again from the same segment. His son Avinash Umesh Jadhav is BJP’s MLA from the Chincholi constituency.

Former chief minister Jagadish Shettar, who returned to BJP in January after quitting Congress, has been fielded from the Belagavi Lok Sabha segment. The constituency was represented by Mangala Angadi, the wife of former Union Minister of State Late Suresh Angadi. In this case, both families are related: Shettar’s son is married to Angadi’s daughter.

Dr Basavaraj Kyavater, a joint-replacement and orthopaedic surgeon, got the ticket for the Koppal Lok Sabha segment. He is the youngest son of former Kushtagi MLA K Sharanappa.

JD(S) is also a family affair, as is usual. Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda’s son and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy is contesting from Mandya, grandson and MP Prajwal Revanna from Hassan. Deve Gpwda’s son-in-law Dr CN Manjunath is contesting from the Bengaluru Rural seat on a BJP ticket.

Also Read: BJP again falls back on ‘Yediyurappa factor’ to deliver in Karnataka

Nepotism in Andhra Pradesh

Due to the seat-sharing pact as part of its alliance with TDP and JSP in Andra Pradesh, BJP will be contesting in only six constituencies. But that has not stopped it from not practising what it preaches when it comes to nepotism.

Andhra Pradesh BJP chief D Purandeswari — the daughter of TDP founder NT Rama Rao and sister-in-law of the regional party’s current chief N Chandrababu Naidu — will contest from Rajahmundry.

Former Congress leader and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy — currently a BJP national executive member — will contest from Rajampet. His father, N Amarnath Reddy, was a minister in PV Narasimha Rao’s Cabinet at the Centre.

Sitting BJP MP Dharmapuri Arvind from the Nizamabad Lok Sabha segment is the son of D Srinivas, who was a very important leader — first in Congress and later in BRS.

Before YS Rajasekhara Reddy came to power in undivided Andhra Pradesh in 2004, Srinivas was the APCC president. He joined BRS after the division of the state in 2014. KCR sent him to the Rajya Sabha in 2016 and he retired from the Upper House in 2022.

Dharmapuri Arvind, who was not into active politics till 2019, was picked by BJP and fielded against KCR’s daughter Kavitha in the Nizamabad Lok Sabha election. He defeated her in the contest.

BJP is fielding Pothuganti Bharat, son of sitting BRS MP P Ramulu, from the Nagarkurnool (SC) Lok Sabha constituency.

Ramulu joined politics in 1994. He was first elected to the AP Assembly in 1994, then in 1994 and 2009 from Achampet in the Mahabubnagar district on a TDP ticket. He was the sports minister in Chandrababu Naidu’s Cabinet.

After the division of the state, he joined BRS and won from the Nagarkurnool Lok Sabha constituency in 2019. He recently joined the BJP which is fielding his son Bharat for the seat now.

DK Aruna is the BJP candidate for Mahabubnagar. She served as a Congress minister when the party was in power at the Centre between 2004 and 2014.

She joined the BJP in 2019 and is now the party’s vice-president. She is the daughter of the late Ch Narsi Reddy and is married to DK Bharatha Simhareddy, entering a political family affiliated with Congress.

Her father-in-law DK Satya Reddy and brother-in-law DK Samara Simha Reddy were in politics. Her father fell to Maoists’ bullets at Narayanpet during Independence Day celebrations in 2005.

BJP’s Chevella candidate Konda Vishweshwar Reddy is the son of former Andhra Pradesh and Bombay High Court chief justice Konda Madhava Reddy. His grandfather Konda Venkata Ranga Reddy was the deputy chief minister of Andhra Pradesh between 1959 and 62, and the KV Ranga Reddy district was named after him.

Vishweshwar Reddy is also the son-in-law of Prathap Reddy, the founder of Apollo Hospitals.

Also Read: BJP Lok Sabha candidate list in Andhra Pradesh leads to uproar

Nepotism in Tamil Nadu

BJP struggled to win a single seat in the 2019 Lok Sabha election when it was in an alliance with AIADMK and PMK.

This time, senior party leaders — right from state president K Annamalai — are putting in added efforts to open the party’s account.

Nepotism is alive here as well. CR Kesavan, the grandson of India’s first governor-general C Rajagopalachari, was appointed the new national spokesperson for BJP. He was earlier in Congress, but jumped ship to join BJP in 2023.

Coteries, favour to turncoats and family links are alive and kicking in Tamil Nadu BJP.

Former Telangana Governor and BJP candidate from Chennai South Lok Sabha segment Tamilisai Soundararajan is the daughter of Congress veteran Kumari Ananthan.

Actor Sarathkumar, after merging his party — All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi — with BJP, was rewarded with a ticket for his wife Raadhika Sarathkumar, who will fight the election from the Virudhunagar LS seat.

BJP’s Chennai North candidate RC Paul Kanagaraj was also rewarded for merging his party with BJP three years ago.

Former DMK MP KP Ramalingam, who joined BJP three years ago, is the candidate in Namakkal.

Likewise, the BJP candidate in Tirupur is AP Muruganandam. He is a close associate of Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai.

A supporter of party vice-president and former union minister of state Pon Radhakrishnan has also been given a ticket. M Muruganandam will be fighting the election from Thanjavur.

K Vasantharajan, the party’s Coimbatore district secretary is the candidate in Pollachi. He is related to former AIADMK minister Velumani.

In the Puducherry Lok Sabha segment, former minister A Namassivayam has been fielded. He was part of the Cabinet led by V Narayanasamy, a Congress leader. He joined the BJP ahead of the 2021 assembly polls.

Also Read: PM Modi may huff and puff, but Tamil Nadu remains lukewarm

Nepotism in Kerala

BJP is desperately trying to make inroads in Kerala, and needs seasoned and known faces — who could fetch them votes — for that.

One such face is Anil K Antony, the son of former CM and Union defence minister AK Antony. Anil Antony joined BJP last year and is now a candidate from the Pathanamthitta Lok Sabha constituency on a ticket from the party.

Thushar Vellapally is contesting from Kottayam, a seat allotted to BJP’s alliance partner Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS). His father Vellapally Natesan is the general secretary of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam and Sree Narayana (SN) Trust.

Vellappally is an influential leader of the Ezhava community and has been a towering figure in Kerala’s socio-political scene for the past few decades.

Meanwhile, Thushar is the state president of BDJS. He is also the SNDP Yogam’s vice-president and SN Trust’s assistant secretary.

Radha Balakrishnan, the mother of BJP candidate Niveditha Subramanian from the Ponnani seat, is a right-wing activist. Niveditha and her mother were imprisoned when the latter protested against the Emergency in 1975. Radha was also the state president of Mahila Morcha and was an active member till she passed away on 10 June, 2012.

She may not be a candidate but Padmaja Venugopal, daughter of Congress politician and former chief minister K Karunakaran, is the latest addition to a list of ‘dynasts’ who have joined the BJP in Kerala.