Karnataka Legislative Council polls: BJP racing against time to pacify rebel leaders

With barely a few hours left for withdrawing the nominations, the BJP is facing rebel trouble in South-West Graduates and South Teachers' constituencies.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published May 19, 2024 | 9:00 AM Updated May 19, 2024 | 9:00 AM

Raghupathi Bhat speaking during a function. (Facebook)

With just a day left for the withdrawal of nominations for the Karnataka Legislative Council elections, BJP’s Karnataka unit is making efforts to mollify its disgruntled leaders, including three-time Udupi MLA K Raghupathi Bhat.

The elections for the six Council seats are slated for 3 June. The nomination process ended on 16 May, and the deadline for withdrawing nominations is 20 May. The results will be declared on 6 June.

As many as 103 candidates have filed 156 sets of nominations. The election is being held for three teachers and three graduates’ constituencies to fill the seats falling vacant on 21 June.

The Congress is contesting all six seats and has announced its candidates. The Opposition alliance partners, the BJP and JD(S), are fighting four and two seats, respectively.

However, a rebellion is rocking the NDA. Besides expressing dissatisfaction with the party’s high command, the disgruntled leaders have also filed papers as independents in the six seats.

Related: Ex-BJP MLA Raghupathi Bhat turns rebel, to contest council election independently 

Rebel trouble for BJP

On 5 May, the BJP announced its candidates in five of the six seats, allotting only one seat to the JD(S).

Amarnath Patil, Dr Dhananjay Sarji and A Devegowda were the BJP candidates from the Karnataka North-East, South-West, and Bangalore Graduates’ constituencies, while YV Narayanaswamy and EC Ningaraju were named to contest from the South-East and South Teachers’ segments, respectively.

However, after the JD(S) raised its concerns over not honouring the seat-sharing promises, the BJP asked Ningaraju to withdraw the nomination and gave the seat to its alliance partner on the last day of nominations.

The last-minute change irked Ningaraju. He went ahead and filed papers, leading to tension between the alliance partners. Leader of Opposition R Ashoka intervened and convinced him to withdraw his nominations and support the NDA candidate.

Related: Prajwal sexual abuse case won’t affect BJP-JD(S) alliance, says Yediyurappa

The South-West scenario

In the South-West Graduates constituency, three-time Udupi MLA Raghupathi Bhat and Mangaluru-based RSS leader SR Harish turned rebels and filed nominations as independent candidates.

“Even if the party expels me, I will continue to work as a BJP karyakarta,” Bhat told reporters. “The party must give me the B-form, considering the representation for the coastal region.”

The former MLA added that he was not contesting against the party. “The BJP has neglected the coastal area. It has to withdraw the candidate and honour me with the ticket,” he said.

Incidentally, the BJP did not field Bhat as its candidate in the 2023 Assembly election. Instead, it deployed local right-wing leader Yashpal Suvarna in Udupi.

Apart from South Teachers and South-West Graduates’ constituencies, the BJP is not facing dissent in other seats.

Related: Elections for six MLC posts on 3 June

Troubleshooting mission

Taking serious cognisance of the disgruntlement, the BJP entrusted a few leaders with the task of troubleshooting. The party currently has a majority in the Legislative Council.

The BJP has named MLC N Ravikumar as in-charge for North-East Graduates, party state general secretary and MLA V Sunil Kumar for South-West Graduates, state secretary DS Arun for South-West Teachers, former deputy chief minister and MLA Dr CN Ashwath Narayan for Bangalore Graduates, and state vice-president M Rajendra for South Teachers.

“We are making efforts to convince Raghupathi Bhat to withdraw his papers. The BJP has been dominating this seat for the past several years,” Sunil Kumar told South First.

“It is important for the NDA to maintain the majority in the Upper House as it has the authority to pass or reject the Bills tabled in the House,” he said.

“We are in a good position in all the six seats. The party is confident of winning maximum seats. If the former Udupi MLA fails to come to terms, then it might affect our lead, but not the victory,” Sunil Kumar sounded confident.

Ravikumar also spoke about the importance of maintaining a lead in the Council.

“We have already resolved differences in the South Teachers’ segment. The party high command will address all the differences before the polling date,” he added.

However, with the last date for withdrawing nominations, time is running out for the BJP.

(Edited by Majnu Babu).