K’taka minister rejects talks of him switching to Congress
Following a meeting with Union home minister Amit Shah in New Delhi, Karnataka housing minister V Somanna has doused rumours about him leaving the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over an alleged fight over ticket distribution for the upcoming assembly elections.
Somanna, who was allegedly upset over the matter according to people close to developments, was seen travelling on a flight with Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar, fuelling speculation of him switching parties.
However, after his visit to New Delhi on Thursday, Somanna said he would remain a loyal party worker.
While the party averted a crisis with Somanna, the BJP has been losing several party leaders from its second layer of leadership in the state, the above-cited people said.
The latest in the list is Mohan Limbikai, former MLC, who joined the Congress after quitting the BJP in Belagavi on Thursday.
Limbikai, a lawyer, was a Yediyurappa loyalist and resigned from the MLC post to join the KJP launched by Yediyurappa in 2013 before rejoining the BJP again in the same year after Narendra Modi was made the Prime Ministerial candidate ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
After joining the Congress, Limbikai said that BJP had failed to utilise his leadership qualities, forcing him to leave the party.
“I have been a disciplined soldier of the BJP for decades. But they failed to utilise my leadership qualities. I was known as a member of Yediyurappa’s inner circle. But I was hurt by the behaviour of some BJP leaders and was unsatisfied with some ideologies of the BJP. I was deeply upset. Then, I decided to join the Congress,” he said.
Earlier in March, two former Congress MLAs and a former mayor from Mysuru returned to the party after a stint in the BJP as the party gears up for the assembly polls in Karnataka by May. Former MLAs Nanjundaswamy and Manohar Ainapur have rejoined the party, along with former Mysore mayor Purushottam of the BSP.
Similarly, in February, HD Thammaiah, a BJP Lingayat leader and a close confidant of the party’s national general secretary CT Ravi, on Friday resigned as the primary member of the BJP to join the Congress, people said.
HD Thammaiah was the Chikkamagaluru constituency’s district convenor of the BJP. Along with Thimmaiah, 100 other party leaders joined the Congress from the BJP, expressing their displeasure over not being recognised by the party.
KPCC president DK Shivakumar said that more leaders wanted to join the Congress, but the party has turned them down.
“There are several BJP, and JD(S) leaders who are keen on joining Congress, and they are in touch with us. But it is difficult to accommodate all of them. I don’t want to reveal their names since it could spoil their political careers. I am not promising them anything as it will be difficult to accommodate them,” Shivakumar said.
A senior Congress leader said that as the BJP poached MLAs from the Congress and JD(S), several local leaders are feeling side-lined.
Apart from that, the infighting in the BJP has resulted in leaders leaving the party. “The face of the BJP could be the MLAs and the ministers, but it is these (second layer of leadership) leaders that run the party’s activities, and they are feeling sidelined by the party and feel that the party doesn’t value them. These leaders will find their space in Congress and help our campaigns,” said the leader who didn’t want to be named.
Political analyst A Narayana said that more than Congress’s ability to poach leaders, the change of camps shows that there are problems within the BJP. “The Congress as a party is not in a position to poach MLAs or leaders like the BJP has done in the past. So, leaders like Limbikai joining the Congress should be looked at failure from the BJP leadership to address the concerns of its party workers,” said Narayana.
A senior BJP legislator who spoke on the condition of anonymity admitted that the party would be facing trouble from disgruntled workers as the process of ticket distribution progresses. “What happened in Shivamogga was gross indiscipline from the party workers. Indifference over ticket distribution can’t go out of control that the senior most leader in the party is surrounded by a mob,” the leader said.
The leader was referring to an incident on Thursday when a group of BJP workers surrounded the car of former Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa in Chikkamagaluru, the home district of party general secretary CT Ravi, on Thursday, after factionalism erupted over a ticket for the upcoming assembly elections. The protest prompted the former chief minister to cancel his roadshow in the region.
However, talking about the leaders shifting camps, the legislator from north Karnataka said that for an organisation like BJP, such incidents would not make a difference.
“We have a strong cadre with a strong presence at the grassroots. We have a lot of leaders at all levels of the organisation who are committed to the vision of Prime Minister Modi. This foundation will give the party the strength to fulfil Yediyurappa’s dream of the party getting majority in the upcoming election,” he said.