Poll season heralds party-hopping spree (Karnataka Newsletter)
By V.S. Karnic, Bangalore, Feb 22 : The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which came to power for the first time in Karnataka in 2008 and made a mockery of the anti-defection law, is being hit by an exodus of its ministers and legislators ahead of assembly polls in May.
Four ministers have quit the Jagadish Shettar cabinet in one month, two of them on Thursday, and more are to follow as polls near. The four have also resigned from the assembly and the BJP.
Another 10 assembly members have quit the house and the party while resignations of two members from the assembly are with Speaker K. G. Bopaiah. Two more have announced they would soon quit the assembly and the party soon.
The BJP bears full responsibility for the mess.
In a way, its first term in office in the state is ending on the same dubious note with which it began in May 2008.
The party had won just 110 seats in the 225-member assembly, which includes one nominated member, and formed the government with the help of five independents by rewarding them with cabinet posts.
The BJP would, perhaps, have been better off if it had not succumbed to its ambition to secure a majority on its own by launching the dodgy "Operation Lotus" (The lotus is party's election symbol.
This led to devious ways of beating the anti-defection law which seeks to curb the party-hopping spree of legislators.
"Operation Lotus" lured more than a dozen assembly members belonging to the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular to quit the assembly, leave their parties and contest as BJP candidates in the by-polls.
This ingenious method gave the BJP a majority of its own in the assembly as its numbers rose to 120.
Of the four ministers who have quit only one, Shobha Karandlaje, started her political career with BJP mentor RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh).
Of the other three, C.M. Udasi came to BJP in 2004 from the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), C.P. Yogeshwar switched over from Congress in 2009 and Narasimha Nayak alias Raju Gouda joined in 2008 from a regional outfit.
Udasi and Karandlaje, who quit last month, have joined Karnataka Janata Party led by former BJP chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa while Yogeshwar and Nayak are knocking the Congress' doors.
Most of the other ministers who are said to be planning to quit BJP once their entry to the Congress is cleared are also new entrants to the party. They joined BJP from other parties just ahead of the 2008 assembly polls or during "Operation Lotus".
State Congress president G. Parameshwara has been saying that about 20 BJP legislators, including several ministers, have sought entry to the party. He has given a list of those would could be taken in to the party high command and is waiting for its nod to open the doors.
The desertion from the BJP ranks would only increase if the party fails to put up a good show in the urban local body polls on March 7.
The elections are to be held for 208 urban local bodies, excepting BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike or Greater Bangalore City Corporation).
The last date for filing nomination papers is Feb 23 and the counting is on March 11.
The Congress was a major winner in the last polls to these local bodies in 2007, followed by the JD-S with BJP in the third place.
The increasing desertions from its ranks ahead of these polls indicate that the BJP may not improve on its 2007 performance - a bad sign for the party facing assembly elections three months hence.
(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at email@example.com)