Party hoppers galore confuse Karnataka’s poll scenario

By V.S. Karnic, IANS,

Bangalore : Karnataka voters are in a quandary. Though familiar with most of the candidates in the poll battle, they are no longer sure who is in which party as the number of politicians switching sides is increasing as the voting dates approach.

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Staunch Congressmen have suddenly turned strong loyalists of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which to them was a ‘communal party’ even a day before changing sides.

Some who had left the Congress for the BJP are now realising that it has been “communal all along” and are celebrating their home-coming to the Congress.

A few Congress and BJP men who had derided the Janata Dal-Secular as a ‘thande-makkala paksha’ (father and sons party) of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his tribe, are “discovering” that it is the only party that cares for the poor, the minorities and the oppressed.

The BJP, ruling Karnataka for the first time, leads in netting leaders from the Congress and the JD-S, a situation reminiscent of politicians flocking to it ahead of the 2004 Lok Sabha polls hoping that its ‘India Shining’ campaign would return the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to power in New Delhi.

The Congress and the JD-S have also had their men crossing over to each other, but their number is insignificant compared to what the BJP has bagged.

The latest to join the BJP bandwagon from the Congress was D.B. Chandre Gowda, who vacated his Chikmagalur seat in 1978 to enable Indira Gandhi to contest from a safe Congress harbour after her defeat and the rout of the Congress in northern India in the 1977 polls held after she lifted the emergency imposed in 1975.

The BJP is fielding him from the Bangalore North constituency against Congress veteran and former railway minister C.K. Jaffer Sharief.

Another Congressman, L.R. Shivarame Gowda, who joined the BJP along with Chandre Gowda, has been given the ticket for the Mandya constituency, held by M.H. Ambareesh of the Congress, a Kannada film actor and central junior minister. The BJP tried in vain to woo him.

The BJP has won over Congress strongman in north Karnataka Gurpadappa Nagmarpalli, who was a member of the state assembly from Bidar. He will now take on former Congress chief minsiter N. Dharam Singh in Bidar.

For Nagmarapalli, it is a double whammy. His son will be the BJP candidate for the bypoll for the Bidar assembly seat.

C.P. Yogeshwar, a Kannada film actor-producer and a realtor, has also latched on to the BJP after resigning from the Congress and the assembly. He is being fielded from Bangalore Rural against former chief minister and JD-S candidate H.D. Kumaraswamy and sitting member Tejaswini Gowda of the Congress.

Incidentally, the BJP had demanded action against Yogeshwar after complaints that he had taken people for a ride with promises of flats in his Mega City project on the outskirts of Bangalore that they never got.

The BJP eagerly welcomed these cross overs as Chandre Gowda, Shivareme Gowda and Yogeshwar belong to the politically powerful Vokkaliga community. The BJP did not have many Vokkaliga leaders and its support base is among Lingayats, another dominant community.

The BJP welcomed another Congress leader V. Somanna, who quit the party and the state assembly and will formally join the BJP next week. His son preceded him in joining the BJP ranks a few days ago.

Voting will take place in 17 constituencies in the first phase on April 23. In the remaining 11 constituencies, voting is scheduled for April 30. With the BJP nominating candidates for all 28 seats, any more new joinees will have to wait their turn for rewards.

The Congress managed to get H.T. Sangliana, a former Bangalore city police commissioner, who had won the Bangalore North Lok Sabha seat in 2004 on the BJP ticket. He is the Congress candidate from Bangalore Central, a new seat created following re-drawing of constituenices.

The Congress welcomed back former chief minister S. Bangarappa, who went to the BJP and later to the Samajwadi Party. He is being fielded from his home-district Shimoga against Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s son and BJP candidate B.Y. Rahavendra.

The JD-S, which enjoys huge clout among Vokkaligas, could only get a few second-rung Lingayat leaders from the BJP.

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at [email protected])