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National - Elections 2004 Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Aya Ram, gaya Ram now in Karnataka

Switching parties may be nothing new in an election year, but in Karnataka it has been carried to the limit, says A. Jayaram.

Call it the season of defections, if you will; Karnataka has seen a veritable flood of political leaders switching allegiances in the run-up to the general elections. Though there may be nothing unusual about turncoatism in an election year, it is the persons involved and the parties they have joined which is making the news.

Some of it is almost inconceivable. Take for instance, the former chief minister S. Bangarappa joining the BJP, his elder son Kumar Bangarappa's double defection in a fortnight, the hardcore BJP leader, Aiyanur Manjunath, joining the Congress and the former Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, K.H. Srinivasa, forgetting his earlier attacks on the S.M. Krishna Government, to join the Congress. The latest to walk out of the Congress is the State Mahila Congress President Nagamma Keshavamurthy, after she was denied the nomination for the Mayakonda Assembly constituency in Davangere district.

Those switching parties have to justify themselves, at least in the eyes of the public.

Those leaving the BJP say it is the "suffocating" atmosphere in the Party. That was the reason given by Mr. Kumar Bangarappa, who was in the Party for less than three weeks. According to BJP sources, he had not even visited a single BJP office in that time. Those who have left the JD (S) have complained of the domination of a few, presumably the family of the former prime minister, H.D. Deve Gowda. Those who have abandoned the Congress have spoken of the Party becoming the private property of a coterie.

Whatever the stated reasons, the movement from one party to another in the Congress-BJP-Janata Dal (Secular) triangle, has shown one thing — that ideological loyalty matters little among the State's political class.

The denial of a party ticket is probably the main reason for the continuing wave of defections. It is likely to continue till April 10, the last date for withdrawal of candidature in the constituencies going to the polls in the second phase of elections in the State (April 26). In fact, the Congress leaders have been stating that both the BJP and the JD (S) did not have candidates for all the 224 Assembly constituencies and that they were waiting for those denied nomination by the Congress, and field them as their nominees.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows, it is said. Thus, politicians who till the other day scoffed at the BJP and its leadership have overnight become admirers of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Similar is the case with those who had derided in public the Congress president Sonia Gandhi or ridiculed Mr. Gowda. It is perhaps a tribute to the political culture in Karnataka, which is known for the "harmony and amity" among politicians cutting across party barriers; the political vindictiveness seen in some other States is fortunately absent here. One of the unintended consequences of this wave of defections is the virtual disintegration of some political parties. A prime example is the AIPJD, or the All India Progressive Janata Dal, which was already quite unfamiliar to many. The Congress scored over the JD (S) by breaking it and absorbing it. The party headed by Ramakrishna Hegde has now disintegrated and the remnant has now merged with the Janata Dal (United) led by the Defence Minister George Fernandes at the national level. Hegde's son Bharat and second daughter Samata have joined the BJP.

As mentioned earlier, denial of an election ticket is the immediate provocation for switching sides. Thus, the former Union minister, D.K.Tara Devi Siddhartha, deserted the BJP to join the JD (S) on being denied nomination for the Chikmagalur Lok Sabha seat. She is changing party loyalties for the second time. A disciple of the former prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, she had entered the BJP from the Congress. Her family had played host to Indira Gandhi when she had successfully contested the Lok Sabha by-election from Chikmagalur in 1978. The JD (S) did not lose any time in making her the party candidate for Chikmagalur. Similarly, Shivananda Patil, a BJP member of the dissolved Assembly, who resigned from the party, was chosen as the Congress candidate from the Basavana Bagewadi constituency in Bijapur district.

The BJP is no different: within days of his quitting the Congress, the former MP from Chitradurga, C.P. Mudaligiriyappa, was accommodated as the BJP candidate from the same constituency.

Even former presiding officers have resigned from their old parties to join new ones. The former chairman of the Legislative Council B.L. Shankar resigned his office to join the Congress. He is now the candidate from Chikmagalur. Earlier he was a Janata Dal member of the House not attached to any faction. The former Speaker of the State Assembly, Ramesh Kumar, quit the JD (S) and returned to the Congress to become the candidate from Srinivasapur in Kolar District.

It is not the Bangarappa family alone, which is now a divided house with his elder son returning to the Congress and his younger son Madhu becoming the BJP candidate from Soraba in Shimoga District.

The JD (S) has divided the family of the Union Minister of State for Railways Basavaraj Patil Yatnal. His elder brother, Ishwarappa Yatnal, quit the BJP to join the JD (S). Perhaps the lone exception of a political leader who has not walked out of a party on being denied a nomination is the former Union minister and BJP leader Dhananjaya Kumar. Mr. Kumar, who had won the Mangalore Lok Sabha four times in a row, was this time rested ostensibly for not being helpful to the party cadres and neglect of the constituency.

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