The lone woman minister in Karnataka storm is a gritty fighter

November 3rd, 2009 - 9:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bangalore, Nov 3 (IANS) Shobha Karandlaje, the lone woman minister in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) first ministry in Karnataka, whose scalp is being demanded by the rebels, is not perturbed.
“Allegations and insinuations are not new to me,” she retorts in response to dissidents’ charge of her overbearing attitude and interference in other ministries. Karandlaje is considered close to beleaguered Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa.

The rebels led by Tourism Minister G. Janardhana Reddy and his elder brother G. Karunakara Reddy want Yeddyurappa to go. They may settle for a compromise that would include sacking Karandlaje from the 17-month-old ministry.

Karandlaje, a post-graduate in social work, is not a push over.

“I have come up the hard way. Let these people prove that I have been interfering in their work,” she challenges when reporters ask her about the rebels’ allegations.

“He is like a father figure,” she says of Yeddyurappa when questioned about her closeness to him.

“He recognizes talent and hard work. I am not the only woman he has encouraged. There are many in the party whose abilities have been spotted and encouraged.”

Karandlaje was born near Puttur in the coastal Dakshina Kannada district, about 350 km from here, on Oct 23, 1966 to Monappa Gowda and Poovakka.

“I have been a swayamsevak (a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and then came to BJP. I have worked hard and not aspired for any post in the organization or government,” Karandlaje insists.

She was active in the BJP’s student wing Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishath, Mahila Morcha (women’s wing) and was also the general secretary of the state BJP unit.

Karandlaje is not married and devotes full time to BJP. She was elected to the Vidhana Parishat (legislative council) in June 2004 for the first time.

As she rose in the party ranks, controversies surrounded her, mainly around her closeness to Yeddyurappa.

Ignoring opposition within the party, Yeddyurappa picked her up to fight the May 2008 assembly elections from Yeswanthpur in Bangalore north.

She beat her detractors and won the seat though a section of BJP workers did not canvass for her saying she was an ‘outsider’ as she hailed from Dakshina Kannada.

Yeddyurappa rewarded her by giving Rural Development and Panchayat Raj ministry. He also made her in charge of the prestigious Mysore district, a popular tourist attraction, including the Jamboo Savari or procession of caparisoned elephants during Dussehra festival.

In addition, she was given the task of briefing the media after cabinet meetings.

There have been murmurs ever since by a section of ministers, legislators and partymen about her style of functioning.

When these got louder, she dropped out of the briefing job which was taken over low-profile, soft-spoken Home Minister V.S. Acharya.

She has frosty relations with Mysore district BJP leaders, many of whom boycotted this year’s Dussehra festivities.

The bad blood between her and Mysore leaders had prompted her to appeal to Yeddyurappa at a public function in Mysore a few months to relieve her of the charge the district.

Karandlaje has her supporters in the ministry, besides Yeddyurappa. Medical Education minister Ramachandra Gowda recently rubbished the talk of Karandlage interfering in other ministries.

“If the charges are proved, I will resign,” he had said springing to the defense of his lone woman colleague in the ministry.

Karandlage has been keeping a low profile ever since the turmoil reached a high pitch. “I am busy attending to my work. My ministry is so vast,” she explains.

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