BJP, Congress face exodus threat in Karnataka (Karnataka Newsletter)

December 18th, 2011 - 3:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bangalore, Dec 18 (IANS) The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka and the main opposition Congress are sailing in the same boat on one issue in the state - threat of exodus from disgruntled party members.

Both are deeply divided houses but the BJP is thriving, for now at least, because the Congress seems to be getting weaker in the state since it lost power in 2004.

It fared poorly in all the elections since then.

Its hopes of an understanding with the third major political force in the state, the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), and the BJP rebels to defeat Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda in the Dec 22 bypoll to the legislative council have been dashed.

Gowda, who took over from scam-hit B.S. Yeddyurappa Aug 4, is now a Lok Sabha member and has to become a member of the state assembly or the legislative council within six months.

The BJP is quick at smoking peace pipe with the dissidents.

It has just revoked suspension of three assembly and one council member who defied the party diktat and canvassed for mining barons Reddy brothers’ associate and former BJP minister B. Sriramulu in the Nov 30 assembly bypoll in the brothers’ stronghold of Bellary, the iron-ore rich district, about 300 km from here.

Sriramulu quit the party and the assembly as he was not made a minister again, forcing the bypoll for Bellary Rural seat which he retained, pushing the BJP candidate to third place after the Congress.

One of the suspended party members was G. Somashekara, one of the Reddy trio, the other two being G. Janardhana, who is in Hyderabad jail since Sep 5 in connection with an illegal mining case in Andhra Pradesh, and G. Karunakara.

Janardhana and Karunakara were also ministers, like Sriramulu, in the BJP’s first government headed by Yeddyurappa that went out July 31 after the then Lokayukta (ombudsman) N. Santosh Hegde nailed them in the illegal mining scam.

The suspension was withdrawn after Sriramulu changed his tune - from bringing down the Gowda government to the BJP has mandate for five years and he will not go against it.

He had claimed he has the support of 22 of the 120 BJP assembly members and will support the Congress and JD-S if they put up a common candidate to defeat Gowda.

In the 225-member assembly with one nominated member, the Congress has 71, JD-S 26 while there are seven independents, including Sriramulu. The BJP also has the support of one of the seven independent members who has been rewarded with a cabinet post.

Hence the deal with Reddy brothers and their front man Sriramulu was a must for the BJP as it does not want to risk the Congress and JD-S capitalising on its dissensions to defeat Gowda.

The Congress has fielded Anand Gaddadevaramath and is trying to rope in the JD-S and Sriramulu to support him.

Though fighting at least six cases of corruption and illegal land deals, in two of which he was in Bangalore jail for 21 days, Yeddyurappa and his supporters have begun lobbying seriously to bring him back as chief minister.

He spent three days in New Delhi early this week trying to impress BJP chief Nitin Gadkari and senior leaders L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.

He even rallied 15 of the party’s 19 Lok Sabha members to give a written representation to Advani on his behalf, as the senior BJP leader is believed to be instrumental in making him quit.

There is intense speculation that Yeddyurappa on one hand and several Congress legislators on the other are planning to join the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) headed by union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.

There is no clear indication as to what is making them to think of joining the NCP as the party has not made any gains except in Pawar’s home state Maharashtra since it was formed in 1999 after breaking away from the Congress.

At least half of the Congress’ 71 assembly members are said to be toying with the idea of quitting the party and try their luck as NCP members if the party does not give them the prominence they deserve.

Yeddyurappa has denied that he is planning to join the NCP along with his supporters if he is not made chief minister again after ‘Sankranthi’, a major harvest festival in Karnataka and several other parts of the country celebrated mid-January.

State Congress chief G. Paramsehswara and leader of the opposition in the assembly Siddaramaiah have also denied that their party members were deserting it in large numbers.

But with elections to the state assembly due in April-May 2013, if not held earlier in view of the deep divisions in the ruling BJP, speculation on Karnataka politicians getting ready to jump sides for better fortune will remain the dominant flavour of 2012.

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at vs.karnic@ians.in)

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