Only those who can accept the Congress ideology and are acceptable to the top leadership may even be considered if they want to switch over from the BJP, said a senior leader from Karnataka’s ruling party, putting to rest the speculation of Operation Hasta (meaning hand, representing the Congress symbol). This comment comes against the background of talks in political circles that many present BJP legislators who had defected from the Congress in 2019 to topple its coalition government with Janata Dal (Secular) are now contemplating a ‘ghar wapsi’ (homecoming).
This development is important as News18 has learnt that a few senior leaders who intend to go back to the Congress have reached out and set up meetings with chief minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy CM DK Shivakumar.
“Let’s be clear. We have won a handsome majority with 136 seats and there is no threat of toppling our government. Anybody who wants to join the Congress will have to go through an agnipariksha (trial by fire) as allegiance is of topmost priority in our party,” explained Karnataka Congress Working President Saleem Ahmed to News18. “If there are those who have expressed willingness to join our party, the CM, deputy CM, and senior functionaries of the party will take a call when they approach us. Those who want to join the Congress are welcome. But at no point in time have we gone and approached people from other parties to come and join us.”
WHAT HAPPENED IN 2019?
After the 2018 assembly polls, no one party got the single majority and the BJP and Congress struggled to get to the magic number of 112 seats in order to form the government. Even though the BJP had won the most number of seats, 105, eight short of the majority mark in the 224-seat Karnataka assembly, in a hurried yet believed to be a smart decision, the Congress decided to offer unconditional support to its junior ally, JD(S), and come to power in Karnataka. The coalition government had 76 Congress MLAs, 37 JD(S) MLAs, and three independent legislators supporting them.
However, a year later, 17 MLAs from the Congress and JD(S) defected as the BJP launched its ‘Operation Kamala’ (a term used to describe the BJP’s alleged practice of trying to poach MLAs from other parties). This led to the collapse of the coalition government. The defections gave the BJP the majority in the assembly, and it was able to form the government under the chief ministership of BS Yediyurappa.
News18 spoke to several Congress leaders, and many were of the opinion that if the buzz of a few BJP MLAs who are contemplating defection is true, it may help in strengthening the party’s prospects in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections as well.
Another senior Congress leader who did not wish to be named said that the point to be noted is that MLAs who had crossed over to the BJP now find that the five guarantees that the Congress has implemented have been successful. “They want to ensure such good schemes also benefit their constituency. It’s not that the people will be denied any of it. But they would like to join hands to usher in progress,” the leader said.
WHOSE NAMES ARE DOING THE ROUNDS?
One of the top names that have been discussed in the political corridors is that of BJP MLA ST Somashekar. Calling DK Shivakumar his “political guru”, he is said to have met the leader to hold discussions.
Arabil Shivaram Hebbar, Byrati Basavaraj, and V Somanna are others who could be holding consultations about returning to the Congress, reports indicate.
The KPCC is reportedly awaiting the high command’s consent on the matter, and if the green signal is given, it would certainly give the Congress an additional thrust just before the 2024 general elections.
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