After three months after the Congress party’s spectacular victory in Legislative Assembly elections, there are now strong political indications that a few “dissenting” opposition BJP MLAs who had earlier defected from the Congress to the BJP, are possibly exploring returning to the ruling party in Karnataka.
Terming the move as a ‘ghar wapsi’ (homecoming), some Congress leaders believe that four to five BJP MLAs are likely to shift to the Congress to boost the party’s prospects in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. These MLAs have played a vital role in the collapse of H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in 2019 and installation of the BJP government.
Fourteen Congress MLAs and three JD(S) MLAs quit the two parties in 2019 which led to the collapse of the JD(S)-Congress government in that year.
Whose return on the cards?
Sources in the Congress said former Minister and Yeshwanthpur MLA S.T. Somashekar would possibly be the first one to quit the BJP. Recently, at the inspection of the Kempe Gowda Layout in Bengaluru by Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar, Mr. Somashekar had said the KPCC chief was his ‘political guru’ and appreciated his leadership.
Closer to the parliamentary elections, it is anticipated that at least four MLAs would quit the BJP and affiliate with the Congress, sources said.
It is being speculated that BJP MLAs like Shivaram Hebbar (Yellapur constituency), Byrati Basavaraj (K.R. Puram), and K. Gopalaiah (Mahalakshmi Layout) are contemplating switching over to the Congress. All these BJP MLAs were part of ‘Operation Kamala’ in 2019 and served as the Ministers in the previous BJP government.
Congress sources said already these legislators held preliminary talks with the KPCC president and the Chief Minister. The KPCC is reportedly awaiting the high command’s consent on inclusion of these MLAs.
Munirathna rules out quitting
However, former Minister and BJP MLA Munirathna ruled out quitting the BJP and joining the Congress. Sources indicated that though Mr. Siddaramaiah gave his nod in favour of Mr. Munirathna to rejoin the party, Mr. Shivakumar reportedly expressed strong reservations. Speaking to a TV channel, Mr. Munirathna said he had no hostilities with “DK brothers” or the CM.
Apparently, these MLAs are planning to quit the BJP, and are likely to seek re-election, like they did in the past. The move is likely to change the narrative during the Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka.
In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress has decided to adopt a ‘maximalist approach’ to ensure victory in at least 20 constituencies, as promised to the high command by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. The Congress has not won double digit seats in Karnataka since 1999.
‘After close scrutiny’
Home Minister G. Parameshwar said, “MLAs who believe in the Congress leadership and ideology are welcome,” and the KPCC president had already said leaders would be admitted after a close scrutiny. “But they (MLAs) will not get first bench,” indicating that they would not become Ministers. However, those MLAs who feel they were treated badly by the BJP could join the party, he said.
D.K. Suresh, MP, said the party high command would take a decision on admission of leaders of other parties into the Congress. “As the parliament session was on till last week, I was focused on the session and some work in the constituency,” the Bengaluru Rural MP said and added, “The Congress welcomes all those who are willing to join the party.”