A file photo of Karnataka Water Resources Minister and BJP leader Ramesh Jarikholi. | Photo: Commons
A file photo of Karnataka Water Resources Minister and BJP leader Ramesh Jarikholi. | Photo: Commons
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Bengaluru: Karnataka Water Resources Minister and BJP leader Ramesh Jarkiholi has stirred a controversy with a statement that a Congress MLA had distributed pressure cookers as a freebie among voters during the 2018 assembly elections campaign, which he had funded.

Jarkiholi was referring to Congress legislator Laxmi Hebbalkar, though he didn’t name her, while speaking at the inauguration of the BJP’s Belagavi rural office Tuesday.

The minister, who was among the Congress MLAs who defected to the BJP last year, also said he is ready to spend “double the amount” offered by the opposition for the upcoming Belagavi District Central Cooperative Bank elections to ensure the victory of BJP nominees.

Hebbalkar, meanwhile, has denied the charges and said she will register a complaint with the state election commission against him.

In his speech, Jarkiholi claimed Thuesday that he had funded the Congress Belagavi campaign as part of efforts to ensure the victory of party candidates in the district, adding the Congress candidate was now claiming credit for the campaign.

“That person is seen celebrating with somebody else’s money,” he said.

Hebbalkar says will move state EC against Jarkiholi

Speaking to ThePrint, Hebbalkar denied Jarkiholi’s charges. “He claims to have financed my elections. It’s completely false. I am registering a complaint with the state election commission on this. I am in consultations with my legal team as well,” she said.

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She also released a video message on WhatsApp saying the defector was making baseless allegations and she would file a defamation case against him for “spreading lies”.

In the video, Hebbalkar said she distributed pressure cookers in some villages as part of a publicity campaign for her family-managed sugar factory, Harsha Sugars Ltd.

“Let the minister come out with evidence to prove his allegations. We will go to court on this. Instead of talking of creating history in Belagavi, as a responsible minister he should concentrate on clearing the arrears that his factories owe to the sugarcane farmers. Many have committed suicide due to non-payment by his factories,” she said in the video.

This is the latest incident in a series of fights between Hebbalkar and Jarkiholi, both MLAs from Belagavi district.

Also read: Bengaluru corporation is blamed as sudden Covid spike unravels city’s fight against virus

‘Need to prove our influence’

During his speech, Jarkiholi also alleged that “some Opposition leaders” were distributing huge sums of money for the upcoming Belagavi District Central Cooperative Bank polls to ensure the victory of their nominees.

“The election is not contested on party symbols. Let’s ensure we win the DCC election. We will pay double the amount offered by the opposition from our own pockets. If need be, we will take loans. We need to prove our influence on all such bodies… Ours is hard earned money, not easy money,” the new BJP leader said.

Jarkiholi also urged the BJP workers to step up and work together to decimate the Congress in Belagavi.

“Party workers should not fall prey or be lured by the designs of the opposition and ensure that the BJP flag is hoisted in the district in the 2023 elections,” said Jarkiholi, the MLA from Gokak in Belagavi.

He said as a devoted Congress party worker he ensured the defeat of the then BJP Belagavi Rural candidate Sanjay Patil. This time, he will “set right the injustice” by ensuring a BJP win from the seat.

Also read: Karnataka to make striking contracted doctors permanent, but with a performance rider


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