17 set to join, BJP faces disquiet within
The Supreme Court verdict that upheld the disqualification of 17 Karnataka lawmakers but allowed them to contest the upcoming bypolls has thrown a new challenge to the BJP because of rising dissidence over ticket distribution.
Having received the green signal from the apex court, the 17 defectors who had all along denied any BJP role in their resignations as House members, are now set to join the BJP on Thursday.
The BJP’s core committee has invited the MLAs — 14 from the Congress and three from the Janata Dal Secular — to join the ruling party in Karnataka.
Briefing the media after the core committee meeting on Wednesday afternoon, minister and BJP politician Aravind Limbavalli said they would join the party at 10am on Thursday.
“The core committee has extended invitations to all of them to join the BJP. All of them have accepted the invitation,” Limbavalli said.
But no decision has yet been taken on the candidates for the 15 Assembly constituencies where bypolls will be held on December 5.
“The core committee is processing the applications for tickets. All the names will be decided by Thursday night,” Limbavalli said, refusing to answer how many of the 17 defectors would feature in the candidates’ list.
Fifteen of the 17 seats that fell vacant following a spate of resignations that brought down the Congress-JDS coalition government would vote on December 5. Elections were not announced in two seats because of pending cases linked to alleged malpractice.
The BJP needs to win at least seven seats to keep the government alive. With 105 seats, plus the support of an Independent, the party had won the trust vote because of the decreased strength of the House caused by the resignations of the 17 MLAs.
The 224-member Assembly, excluding the Speaker, had 17 vacant seats after the disqualification of the rebels. This brought down the total to 207, and the magic mark to 104.
The reduced numbers helped B.S. Yediyurappa’s government sail through the trust vote on July 29.
The strength of the House will go up to 222, excluding the Speaker, after the bypolls. With the new magic number rising to 112, the BJP will need to win seven seats to survive without the help of the Independent.
The Congress has 65 MLAs, the JDS 34, the Bahujan Samaj Party one and two Independents.
One relief for the BJP and Yediyurappa is that there are no signs yet of the Congress and the JDS forging another post-poll alliance.
Chief minister Yediyurappa said all the 17 leaders were welcome to join the BJP. “We welcome all of them to our party. Our state president will be welcoming them to the BJP tomorrow,” he said.
He parried a question on how the dissidents in his party would react if the newcomers were accommodated. “They are all with us. We will keep only those who want to fight with us,” Yediyurappa said.
At least three BJP leaders have openly rebelled against the party’s decision to field the disqualified members.
Sharath Bache Gowda, son of BJP Lok Sabha member B.N. Bache Gowda, has decided to contest as an Independent from the Hoskote constituency as the party is planning to field M.T.B. Nagaraj, one of the 17 lawmakers and a sworn enemy of his father.
What has made the BJP’s headache more acute is former chief minister and JDS leader H.D. Kumaraswamy’s willingness to support Sharath by not fielding a party candidate in Hoskote.“I will help Sharath if he makes a request,” Kumaraswamy said on Wednesday.
Two other BJP leaders, Ashok Pujari and Raju Kage, have held talks with Congress leaders D.K. Shivakumar and P.C. Siddaramaiah over the past few days. Kage was even supposed to join the Congress on Wednesday, but postponed it by a day for the second time.Congress leaders welcomed the Supreme Court verdict that upheld the disqualification of the rebels and called for Yediyurappa’s resignation.
Congress legislature party leader Siddaramaiah termed the verdict a “lesson to MLAs who want to resign and join another party”.
“Now the voters will not accept them in the bypolls,” the former chief minister said.