As polls approach, party−hopping takes wings (Karnataka Newsletter)

Bangalore, Nov 17: With just six months to go for the Karnataka polls and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) facing a split, it is testing time for many state politicians who have begun to assess their electoral fortunes and weigh party−hopping options.

All major players for power − the BJP, the Congress, the Janata Dal−Secular (JD−S) and the soon−to−take off Karnataka Janata Party of former BJP chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa − have started making claims that many from other parties are knocking on their doors.

However, none is naming the poll−fortune seekers on the specious plea that the time is not appropriate yet.

The claims, particularly by the Congress and the BJP, are being made even though the two parties have been frequently troubled by the ‘loyalists versus migrants’ battles. Every time such a fracas surfaces, ‘loyalists’ are placated with a position or assurance of better days at the ‘appropriate time’.

The first to get off in the party−hopping race is a JD−S legislator C.S. Putte Gowda, from the Shravanabelogola constituency in Hassan district, home to JD−S president and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

Putte Gowda and H.M. Vishwanath, a former JD−S assembly member from the Sakleshpur constituency, also in Hassan district, have announced that they would be leaving the party soon as they can no longer suffer the “dictatorial behaviour” of Gowda’s son and legislator H.D. Revanna.

The JD−S is derided by Gowda’s detractors as “thande−makkala paksha” (father and sons’ party) as he is the national president, Revanna is party leader in the assembly and another son, H.D. Kumaraswamy, is a former chief minister and now the party’s state president.

Kumaraswamy is also JD−S Lok Sabha member from the Ramanagaram constituency on Bangalore outskirts while his wife Anita is a JD−S assembly member.

The two JD−S members are planning to join the Congress and are said to have approached the state Congress leaders. There is no word yet from the Congress on whether they will be taken in and given the party ticket in the coming polls.

All the parties as well as people in the state are also keenly waiting to see how many BJP ministers and legislators follow Yeddyurappa and join the Karnataka Janata Party, which he will launch Dec 9.

The 70−year−old Yeddyurappa is largely credited with bringing the BJP to power for the first time in Karnataka in the May 2008 assembly polls. However, his image has taken a beating following various corruption cases against him. He was forced to quit July last year over mining bribery charges.

He claims the support of at least 60 of the BJP’s 119 assembly members, including several ministers. But there is no guarantee that all of them will join the new party.

The state assembly has 225 members, including one nominated.

Several of these legislators and ministers fear that the BJP may not field them in the coming polls. They are believed to be tapping the Congress and the JD−S on the prospects of getting tickets from them to fight the polls.

On his part, Yeddyurappa is keeping the BJP guessing, often with conflicting statements.

Sometimes he says the Jagadish Shettar ministry, the third BJP regime in four years of the party’s maiden rule, will last out the term that ends in May next. At other times, he warns the ministry will fall if his supporters are acted against. Early this month, he declared that Karnataka is now being run by a coalition government − BJP and his supporters.

Though not many in the state are willing to bet on any party winning a clear mandate, the party−hoppers do not seem to be worried about such a prospect.

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

IANS