Former Karnataka minister KS Eshwarappa on Monday said that the Bharatiya Janata Party does not need votes from Muslims in the Shivamogga constituency, The Hindu reported. The Assembly elections in the southern state will be held on May 10.

Addressing a gathering of the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community on Monday, Eshwarappa said: “There are around 60,000 Muslims in the city. We don’t want their votes. Of course, there are Muslims, who received our help individually whenever they were in need and who would vote for us. Nationalist Muslims will definitely vote for us.”

Former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa was present when the BJP leader made the remarks.

Eshwarappa, a five-time MLA from Shivamogga, also claimed that every community has benefited with the BJP government being in power.

“Under BJP rule, Hindus were safe,” he added. “Nobody dared attack Hindus. There is a feeling among the public that they would not be as secure if any non-BJP government came to power.”

On April 11, the 74-year-old leader had announced that he was quitting electoral politics. His decision came amid speculation that the BJP was planning to deny him an election ticket. The BJP did not even field his son from the Shivamogga Assembly seat as was expected.

In April last year, Eshwarappa had resigned as the minister of rural development and panchayati raj after a contractor and BJP worker, Santosh Patil, died by suicide after accusing him of corruption.

In July, the veteran leader was cleared of the charges in the abatement to suicide case.