‘Aaya Rams’ becoming ‘Gaya Rams’ ahead of BBMP, LS polls? Karnataka BJP refutes murmurs

BJP MLA Somashekar expressed disappointment over the central leadership not addressing party issues he had flagged.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Aug 18, 2023 | 10:53 PM Updated Aug 18, 2023 | 10:53 PM

Karnataka BJP MLAs defect DK Shivakumar

Political circles in Karnataka are abuzz with speculation that a few BJP MLAs may defect to the ruling Congress.

The murmurs of MLAs who had crossed floors to the saffron party from the Congress-JD(S) in 2019 returning to the ruling camp came amidst rumblings within the BJP, which is still smarting from the humiliating defeat it faced in the May Assembly polls.

The names of Yeshwanthapura MLA ST Somashekar, Mahalakshmi Layout MLA K Gopalaiah, Yellapur MLA Shivaram Hebbar, and KR Puram MLA Byrati Basavaraj are making the rounds. Of the four MLAs, all, except Gopalaiah, were with the Congress till 2019. Gopalaiah defected to the BJP from the JD(S).

Somashekar and Hebbar held meetings with their followers separately and publicly hinted that they might shift loyalties, much to the chagrin of the BJP leaders.

Responding to the rumours, Deputy Chief Minister and KPCC president DK Shivakumar said that he had asked party workers to welcome those leaders willing to switch over to the Congress.

These developments hinted that the Congress has been preparing the ground to welcome back those who had left the party, ahead of the BBMP and Lok Sabha elections.

Putting up a brave façade, the BJP leaders said none of the MLAs were planning to leave the party.

Also read:  BJP’s agenda is to end Lingayat dominance in Karnataka: Shettar

BJP MLAs hold meeting with supporters

Amidst the talks of opposition MLAs switching over to the Congress, Somashekar and Hebbar held meetings with their followers in their respective constituencies, and reportedly discussed shifting their allegiance to the Congress.

Rumours of Somashekar’s possible return to the Congress have been gathering steam ever since he shared a dais with Shivakumar during a review meeting of development works in Yesvanthapura. The MLA then recalled his pre-defection days with the KPCC president, triggering speculation about his ghar wapsi plan.

Earlier, Somashekar expressed disappointment over the BJP central leadership’s inaction on issues that he had flagged to party veteran and former chief minister BS Yediyurappa.

“I did not speak politics with the deputy chief minister during his visit to Kempegowda Layout. It seems that only the BJP is willing to send me (back). I do not have any qualms at the state or district levels, but the local partymen are working against me,” the MLA alleged.

“There were conspiracies to defeat me in the Assembly polls only because I had come from another party,” Somashekar alleged. “After my victory, I could not follow it up,” he further said.

Also read: Former K’taka Dy CM Eshwarappa retires from electoral politics

Complaints of inaction

He alleged that the BJP leaders did nothing against those involved in anti-party activities. “I have made it clear to all party leaders that I will remain in the party. There are no thoughts of leaving the BJP,” he asserted.

Congress leader and Nelamangala MLA N Srinivas, who attended the meeting Somashekar had convened with his supporters, presented another version.

“The KPCC president has assigned me with the task of bringing either Somashekar or his supporters to the Congress. His supporters have already said that they will switch loyalty back to Congress,” Srinivas told reporters.

The Congress MLA sounded confident that Somashekar would return to the Congress fold. “Somashekar has sought time to announce his decision. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and all other leaders will welcome him with open arms. Talks are underway,” he claimed.

Hebbar, who held the meeting with his supporters at Mundgod on Thursday, 17 August, said he had not decided to join the Congress. “I will remain with the BJP,” he said after the meeting.

Also read: Karnataka withdraws order stopping grants to temples after uproar

‘No one will quit BJP’

Meanwhile, BJP leaders claimed that none of the MLAs would leave the party and any shortcomings would be addressed at the earliest. They also said that the party’s high command was likely to appoint the opposition leader and state president in a week.

Even three months after the Assembly elections, the BJP has not named the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly. Former chief minister Basavaraj Bommai recently met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and asked him to expedite the process.

The party has also not yet begun the process of finding a successor to BJP state president and MP Nalinkumar Kateel, who completed his tenure in August 2022. He was given an extension in view of the Assembly elections.

“There is no question of BJP MLAs leaving the party. It is all rumours. If the MLAs have any issues, the high command will sort them out.” BJP’s senior leader Govind Karjol told South First.

“The MLAs that defected from Congress and JD(S) have been given power, position, and everything they have asked. The party has not neglected them. If there are any issues let them discuss it with the party leadership,” he added.

Karjol attributed the delay in appointing the opposition leader to the upcoming Parliament and Assembly elections.

“The high command had assured of initiating the process after 15 August,” he said, adding that the appointments would be made in a week or two. “There is no leadership vacuum. The party will make appointments at the right time,” he said.

Meanwhile, BJP MLC N Ravikumar said the party would in all likelihood hold its state core committee meeting on 21 August. “Senior party leaders have already spoken to the MLAs who are rumoured to leave the party. The MLAs will remain with the party,” he told South First.

He also said that the issues, if any, would be ironed out and the opposition leader and party president would be appointed at the earliest.

Meanwhile, Yediyurappa met the MLAs and other leaders regarding the rumours on Friday, 18 August. “Nobody will leave the BJP. Even the one of two leaders who are contemplating such a move will be spoken to. We will talk to them and address their concerns. There won’t be a scenario where our leaders leave,” BS Yediyurappa told reporters after the two hour long meeting.

Also read: The importance of being Siddaramaiah in Karnataka politics

Doors are open: Shivakumar

Meanwhile, Shivakumar welcomed MLAs from the opposition party to the Congress camp. “If anyone is ready to join the party, they are welcome,” he said.

On talks of Somashekar joining the Congress, the KPCC chief expressed ignorance. “If he is ready to join the Congress, then let him join. Some workers are working with great enthusiasm. We have told the workers to increase the vote share,” he told reporters.

However, he said that there could be personal opinions among the Congress leaders regarding the re-induction of Somashekar into the party. Whatever should happen will happen anytime. I cannot disclose who will be joining the party. In politics, anything can happen,” he added.

Meanwhile, Minister for Agriculture N Chaluvarayaswamy hinted that the talks were underway to welcome the opposition leaders. “Around 10 to 15 sitting MLAs and former MLAs from the BJP and JD(S) will join the Congress. I cannot disclose the names now,” he said, adding that everything would be finalised in a few days.

A party leader, on condition of anonymity, said the Congress has intensified its organisational work after a meeting with the high command in Delhi.

“The party’s confidence has doubled after its stellar victory in the Assembly polls. The KPCC president aiming at replicating the same in the BBMP and Lok Sabha elections,” he said.

The leader added that efforts were being made to strengthen the party’s base across the state. “These developments are the result of the party’s political engineering,” he stated.