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Journalist | Lehar Singh Siroya: Bengaluru’s Hindi link to Delhi who took dark horse victory in RS polls

The recent Rajya Sabha election victory of Lehar Singh Siroya, a BJP candidate with no strong caste support in Karnataka politics, and no strong support in the BJP state unity, has once again brought into sharp relief the strong influence of BJP Central Leadership on State Unity.

Siroya, 74, a low-key two-term BJP member of the Karnataka Legislative Council who initially emerged as an interlocutor between senior BJP leaders in Delhi and the state unit – due to his ability to communicate fluently in Hindi – was a surprise winner in the just-concluded Rajya Sabha elections.

Considered an outsider to Karnataka politics, Singh’s equations with the central BJP leadership won him the Rajya Sabha ticket and subsequently ensured that BJP MPs toed the line and backed his candidacy despite their initial reluctance.

Although Singh had only 31 spare BJP votes at his disposal to win Rajya Sabha’s fourth seat in Karnataka, compared to 32 for the JD(S) and 25 for the Congress, he managed to get 33 votes thanks to the cross vote of the JD (S). Prior to the polls, Singh claimed to have “friends from all parties” who would help him win. Singh’s victory helped the BJP win three of Karnataka’s four Rajya Sabha seats, with the fourth going to Congress.

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A member of the Jain community and a businessman, Singh, originally from Rajasthan, has been part of the BJP for almost three decades, during which he served for many years as the party’s treasurer.

In his first years in politics, he was the interlocutor of the former Karnataka CM Yediyurappa with the central management. Unable to communicate effectively in a predominantly Hindi party, the French-speaking Yediyurappa often looked to Singh to communicate with the BJP leadership.

It was Yediyurappa who reportedly proposed Singh’s name at the meeting of the state’s central committee for Rajya Sabha elections after it became clear he had the support of the central leadership.

While Singh has remained associated with Yediyurappa – who first named him MLC in 2010 – he has been a loyal follower of Narendra Modi in recent years.

In 2010, when many BJP leaders opposed Modi’s entry into the national arena, Singh ran ads in national newspapers supporting Modi. In 2013, Singh was suspended from the BJP for criticizing LK Advani for alleged double standards on the issue of corruption. In 2012, when Yediyurappa left the BJP to form the KJP, Singh stayed.

A savvy political strategist, with his elevation in Rajya Sabha, Singh, who is said to have the ear of the people who matter in the BJP, is expected to be a key figure nationally on political affairs in Karnataka ahead of the 2023 elections. He recently said he would function as an “interlocutor” in Delhi for the people of Karnataka.

During his two terms as a member of the Legislative Council of Karnataka, Singh often raised issues regarding the deteriorating city of Bengaluru, the issue of corruption, drug abuse among the youths.

In his final speech as a member of the Legislative Council, he warned leaders of all political parties that they risked losing the trust of the people if corruption in public life was not checked.