Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi on Tuesday took oath as a minister of state in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, the only addition from the south in Tuesday’s cabinet expansion.
The 64-year-old Jigajinagi, member of a scheduled caste, is MP from North Karnataka’s Bijapur. He has won five Lok Sabha elections in a row, and previously served as a legislator in the state assembly for three terms and as a state revenue minister.
Like many other senior state legislators, Jigajinagi entered politics rebelling against the Emergency under the mentorship of Ramakrishna Hegde, the late leader of the undivided Janata party and three-term chief minister of Karnataka. He became a popular dalit leader from the northern drylands during his rather long stint as a legislator from Chikkodi, the state’s sugar hub. He sealed his popularity after defeating former Union minister and seven-term Congress MP B. Shankaranand from Chikkodi in his debut Lok Sabha election in 1998. He retained the seat for the next three terms, even as he switched from Lok Shakthi to JD(U) (after Lok Shakti merged with JD(U)) and then to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Jigajinagi is known for asserting his caste identity without taking a confrontational approach. The story goes that he was once invited to inaugurate an event in a temple while serving as an MLA, but had to face an embarrassing situation when upper caste Hindus opposed his entry. He has not visited any upper caste Hindu temples after the incident.