The Congress is likely to send its victorious candidates in Telangana to Bangalore in the event of a hung Assembly to preclude the possibility of poaching by the Bharat Rashtra Samithi.
Although exit polls have favoured the Congress, a fractured mandate would almost certainly trigger poaching attempts. Considering how 12 of the 18 Congress MLAs had jumped ship to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi — as the BRS was then known — about a year after the 2018 elections, Karnataka state president and deputy chief minister D.K. Shivakumar has chalked out a plan to sequester the winning candidates, a party source in Bangalore said.
The source, who asked not to be named, told The Telegraph on Saturday that Shivakumar was booked on a late-night flight to Hyderabad.
"He will be travelling tonight and will be in Hyderabad the entire day tomorrow (the counting day), and will head to Belgaum for the Assembly session on Monday if we receive a clear mandate.”
The 10-day winter session of the Karnataka Assembly is scheduled to begin on Monday and will be held in Belgaum in the north of the state as has been the practice for several years.
“But DKS (as Shivakumar is called) will stay back in Hyderabad in case the results throw up a hung Assembly. The party would then take a call on bringing the elected members to Bangalore,” said the source.
In such a situation the victorious candidates would be most likely shifted to a private holiday resort on the outskirts of Bangalore until the coast is clear for them to be flown back to Hyderabad.
Most exit polls have predicted between 60 and 70 seats for the Congress in the House of 119. With 60 being the simple majority mark, there is every likelihood of horse-trading attempts, said the party source.
Telangana Congress spokesperson Sama Ram Mohan Reddy, however, said he had no official information about any plans to shift the victorious candidates to Bangalore.
“I don’t know of any such plan to shift our winning candidates to Bangalore. But, according to me, there won’t be such a need since we are winning a clear mandate,” Reddy told this newspaper on Saturday.
The exit polls have made the BRS camp jittery. According to a party source in Hyderabad, the leaders are worried. “But I personally feel wewill win 60 to 70 seats (against 88 in 2018). It is impossiblethat the BRS would lose so many seats to allow a Congress victory in Telangana where KCR is still the most popular leader,” said the BRS functionary, preferring anonymity.
A Congress source in Telangana, who declined to be named, admitted that Shivakumar was the “natural choice” to handle any situation arising from a hung House.
“He has proven experience in rebuffing poaching attempts,” he said, alluding to how Shivakumar had sequestered 44 Congress MLAs from Gujarat ahead of a key election to the Rajya Sabha in 2017.
Shivakumar had single-handedly warded off all poaching threats from the BJP, which had rolled every single dice to deny a victory to Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, Ahmed Patel, in the Rajya Sabha election from Gujarat.
A team led by Shivakumar had negated any possibility of outside contact with the 44 MLAs by taking even their mobile phones away until they had been flown back to Gujarat for voting.
It was during that operation that multiple raids had been conducted by tax authorities on premises either owned by, or connected to, Shivakumar while the MLAs were in the holiday resort. But Shivakumar had assumed charge of the sequestered MLAs after three days of raids and grilling over his allegedly unaccounted wealth.
He was later arrested in September 2019 and spent about 50 days in Tihar jail.