Karnataka deputy chief minister and state Congress president D.K. Shivakumar on Wednesday said that anyone from the BJP or the Janata Dal Secular can join the party if they have faith in its ideology.
Shivakumar was speaking to the reporters while welcoming around 150 workers and local leaders from the Yeshwanthpur Assembly constituency who joined the Congress after leaving the JDS and the BJP.
“We will treat all those coming out of this (NDA) alliance with respect if they agree with our ideology,” Shivakumar assured.
His assurance has come as the Congress is strengthening its booth-level workers into a counterweight to the powerful election machinery of the BJP that would presumably go all out to retain a majority of the 25 Lok Sabha seats it won in 2019.
But he maintained that the Congress was definitely not poaching anyone from either the BJP or the JDS. “We are not seeking any MLAs. But a large number of leaders from both parties are in touch with us. Three former MLAs had met me last night,” said the party chief.
The new entries, he said, would help galvanise the party at the booth level, especially in Bangalore, where the local body polls are likely to be held in December. “You have taken the right decision at the right time because corporation elections (city council polls) are coming up,” he said, alluding to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike elections.
The entry of local BJP-JDS party workers to the Congress coincided with a sit-in held by JDS leader H.D. Kumaraswamy and BJP leader B.S Yediyurappa over the ongoing Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The Cauvery Water Regulatory Committee had on Tuesday directed Karnataka to release 3,000 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of water to Tamil Nadu for 18 days starting September 28. The committee had earlier ordered the state to release 5,000 cusecs of water for 15 days starting September 15, triggering protests including Tuesday’s Bangalore shut-down by the Opposition parties and farmers.
Shivakumar took a swipe at Kumaraswamy joining Yediyurappa in the protest. “Kumaraswamy must remember that it was Yediyurappa who pulled down his (JDS-Congress) coalition government,” he said, alluding to how the BJP leader engineered defections by luring 17 lawmakers — 14 of them from the Congress — to destabilise the government in 2019.
He lampooned the JDS for lack of a clear ideology for joining the NDA. “This clearly shows that the JDS has no political ideology.”
The JDS leadership’s decision to join the NDA after a meeting with the BJP leadership last week has caused much consternation in the party that has always projected its secular credentials. While a number of Muslim leaders have resigned from the party, even non-Muslim MLAs have expressed their dissatisfaction.
Karemma Nayak, JDS MLA from Devadurga, has voiced her opposition to the alliance with the BJP. While she had no immediate plans to quit the JDS, Nayak ruled out any cooperation with the BJP in her constituency.
She recalled the harassment she faced at the hands of the BJP leaders during the May Assembly elections when her posters and banners were torn. “My banners were torn and they even criticised Kumaraswamy. I cannot simply forget those incidents, which is why I am hurt by this decision,” Nayak told reporters.
Former JDS MLA from Tumkur, D.C. Gowrishankar, is another senior leader who has come out against the alliance with the BJP. He is said to be in touch with the Congress to make a move along with his army of supporters.
Tumkur Lok Sabha member G.S. Basavaraju of the BJP has also openly opposed the decision to induct the JDS into the NDA, taking into account his own local rivalry with the party and its leaders.
It was Basavaraju who defeated JDS supremo H.D. Deve Gowda in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Tumkur. He has objected to any plan to give the seat to the JDS in next year’s general elections.