Party-hopping is all the rage ahead of the 2023 Karnataka Assembly elections, and the Congress seems to be the favourite destination for now.
Many leaders — including incumbent MLAs — from the BJP and the JD(S) have joined the Congress in the last few weeks.
NY Gopalakrishna — the BJP MLA from Kudligi and a six-time legislator — returned to the Congress on Monday, 3 April, in the presence of KPCC president DK Shivakumar.
So far, at least four legislators from the BJP and the JD(S) have joined the Congress, while the BJP has welcomed one JD(S) MLA.
NY Gopalakrishna, who was previously with the Congress and has won four times from the Molakalmuru Assembly segment in Chitradurga and once from Ballari, joined the BJP ahead of the 2018 Assembly polls and won from the Kudligi seat.
He has now returned to the Congress in a move that the party has hailed as “evidence” of its prospects in the Assembly polls scheduled to take place on 10 May.
ಕೆಪಿಸಿಸಿ ಅಧ್ಯಕ್ಷರಾದ @DKShivakumar, ವಿಪಕ್ಷ ನಾಯಕರಾದ @siddaramaiah ಅವರ ಸಮ್ಮುಖದಲ್ಲಿ ಕೂಡ್ಲಿಗೆ ಶಾಸಕರಾದ ಎನ್.ವೈ ಗೋಪಾಲಕೃಷ್ಣ ಅವರು ತಮ್ಮ ಅಪಾರ ಬೆಂಬಲಿಗರೊಂದಿಗೆ ಬಿಜೆಪಿ ತೊರೆದು ಕಾಂಗ್ರೆಸ್ ಪಕ್ಷಕ್ಕೆ ಸೇರ್ಪಡೆಯಾದರು. ವಿಧಾನ ಪರಿಷತ್ ಸದಸ್ಯರಾದ ಪ್ರಕಾಶ್ ರಾಥೋಡ್, ದಿನೇಶ್ ಗೂಳಿಗೌಡ ಸೇರಿ ಹಲವು ಮುಖಂಡರು ಉಪಸ್ಥಿತರಿದ್ದರು. pic.twitter.com/PbXEzZNYVZ
— Karnataka Congress (@INCKarnataka) April 3, 2023
Gopalakrishna resigned from his Legislative Assembly seat on Friday.
He is now the Congress aspirant for the Molakalmuru seat, which is currently held by Transport Minister B Sreeramulu.
Infighting hits BJP in BSY hometown
If leaders and MLAs exiting the party weren’t enough, the BJP is also dealing with infighting.
In what comes as an embarrassment to the saffron party ahead of the announcement of its list of candidates, Shivamogga BJP MLC Ayanur Manjunath has publicly challenged senior party leader and former minister KS Eshwarappa.
Manjunath, a close aide of BJP Parliamentary Board member and former chief minister BS Yediyurappa, declared that he would resign his MLC post and contest against Eshwarappa from the Shivamogga City seat in the 10 May Assembly elections.
He, however, did not disclose if he would be joining any other political party.
Manjunath came down heavily on Shivamogga MLA Eshwarappa while announcing his resignation as MLC.
He said on Sunday: “Everyone knows how Eshwarappa manages to win polls. He always provokes people with his hate speeches to garner votes instead of going for the elections on issues of development.”
Announcing his candidature from Shivamogga, Manjunath said: “I have accepted the challenge of Eshwarappa. I will be contesting against him from Shivamogga in this election. I will not allow Eshwarappa to forward his agenda in the elections. I will seek votes on development instead of communal lines.”
He added: “The people have not forgotten how Eshwarappa treated Yediyurappa. He also disrespected him and never followed the protocols.”
The political observers from Shivamogga suggested that Manjunath, who hails from the dominant Lingayat community, could split BJP votes to an extent, but winning against Eshwarappa would not be a simple task.
Meanwhile, over the past month, many BJP and JD(S) leaders have quit their parties and pledged allegiance to the Congress.
MLCs Puttanna and Baburao Chinchansur, and MLA NY Gopalkrishna quit the BJP and switched loyalty to the Congress.
Meanwhile, JD(S) MLA SR Srinivas, who was expelled for “anti-party activities”, also joined the Congress.
Congress buoyed by influx
With internal surveys giving the Congress the edge but stopping short of the party crossing the halfway mark, the influx of leaders from other parties is being viewed as popular support in its favour.
KPCC president DK Shivakumar told reporters on Monday, “BJP and JD(S) legislators joining the Congress voluntarily is big evidence that people have decided for a change in Karnataka. This clearly shows the failure of the double-engine government claimed by the BJP.”
He added: “There is a big list of people wanting to join the Congress. The party has not assured tickets to anyone. We will screen every name; only if we are able to accommodate them, will we consider.”
BJP not concerned
The Karnataka BJP, however, said the exodus of leaders was nothing to worry about.
Karnataka BJP general secretary and MLC N Ravikumar told South First: “It is a common scene during every Assembly polls that sitting MLAs, MLCs, and party leaders switch loyalty. The party is currently working on finalising the candidates, and not too worried about the leaders that are leaving the party.”
He added: “Many leaders have joined the BJP as well. The latest inclusion was AT Ramaswamy. He is a strong leader from Hassan. This will help the party to a great extent in breaching the fort of the JD(S) in Hassan. Many leaders of the JD(S) and the Congress are likely to join BJP in the following days.”
On whether the party was making efforts to stop disgruntled leaders from quitting it, Ravikumar said: “The party has made efforts to stop a few leaders, but the final decision rests with them. There were also rumours that many incumbent ministers were likely to join the Congress in the coming polls, but no one has quit the party.”
He added: “The high command is closely observing each and every development in the cadre. It is also addressing the grievances of unhappy leaders. The party will gain a complete majority in the elections.”
The JD(S), meanwhile, has claimed that it isn’t too concerned about the departure of Ramaswamy from the party. This, despite it having lost the most number of legislators to rivals.
Ramaswamy, who hails from the dominant Vokkaliga community, joining the saffron cadre has boosted the confidence of the BJP in hurting JD(S) strongman HD Kumaraswamy’s electoral prospects.
JD(S) state spokesperson Ravichandregowda told South First: “Ramaswamy distanced himself from the party activities at his own Assembly segment for many months. The party has announced former MLA A Manju as its candidate from Arkalgud. He will win comfortably in the elections and the JD(S) will retake the segment.”
He added: “The BJP won’t be able to make any headway either in Hassan or Arkalgud. Ramaswamy is a good leader but won’t be able to win the hearts of the people in this election. Hassan is dominated by the JD(S) and it will continue its legacy in the region.”
He also said: “The people have not forgotten the contribution of (former prime minister HD) Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy to the district. The people will give a mandate to the JD(S) and Kumaraswamy in the elections.”