Rebels bat for kin, land BJP in a bind
The Congress and Janata Dal Secular rebels who were disqualified after helping the BJP grab power in Karnataka now want the ruling party to field their relatives in the upcoming 15 by-elections if the Supreme Court denies them immediate relief.
Their demand has landed the BJP in a fix because giving all the 15 nominations to political greenhorns can cause disgruntlement among old-time loyalists who may be eyeing tickets for themselves.
“We hope the Supreme Court will allow the disqualified MLAs to contest the by-elections. If not, we will have some issues to deal with,” a state BJP official admitted, asking not to be named.
Then Speaker Ramesh Kumar had disqualified all the 17 rebels — 14 from the Congress and 3 from the JDS — for the Assembly’s remaining term, blocking them from contesting any by-elections.
The rebels, who have challenged their disqualification in the apex court, had been waiting for relief when the Election Commission last Saturday announced the 15 by-elections, scheduled on October 21.
On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear on Wednesday the disqualified MLAs’ plea to be allowed to contest the by-elections as interim relief, PTI reported.
The Election Commission counsel told the court the Speaker’s order cannot deprive the disqualified MLAs of their right to contest by-elections.
Two of the 17 vacant seats, Maski and R.R. Nagar, have been left out of the by-elections since cases involving these seats have been pending since the 2018 Assembly polls.
The state BJP official who spoke to this newspaper acknowledged that the party was running against the clock since the last date for filing nominations is September 30.
“Yes, we are a bit nervous. But we have alternatives in case the court refuses to allow the disqualified MLAs to contest this time,” he said.
He confirmed that the disqualified members were seeking tickets for their kin if they were unable to contest themselves.
“I think almost all of them have suggested names of relatives. But being a national party we cannot take such decisions without a clearance from our national leadership,” the source said.
He said chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa had already told the central leadership he wanted to field the relatives if the disqualified members did not receive court relief in time.
Shivaram Hebbar, one of the Congress rebels, has urged the BJP to give the Yellapur ticket to his son Vivek or wife Vanajakshi. Disqualified Congress member B.C. Patil wants the BJP to field his daughter Srushti Patil from K.R. Pet.
The Congress is determined to prevent the rebels from contesting the by-elections, state unit president Dinesh Gundu Rao told reporters on Monday.
“Our counsel is arguing (in the Supreme Court) that the Speaker’s decision should be upheld and this should be a good lesson for the turncoats who wreaked havoc for political gain,” Rao said.
K.S. Eshwarappa, the state minister of rural development and panchayati raj, said the BJP would win all the 15 seats whoever it fielded.
All three parties held meetings through the day.