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Karnataka’s Power Switch: Ahead of LS Polls, Congress Eyes BJP MLAs; Oppn Says Can Keep Raiders at Bay – News18

The Congress government in Karnataka launched its most ambitious Griha Lakshmi scheme, under which woman head of every family gets Rs 2,000 per month, in the presence of party leader Rahul Gandhi in Mysore on Wednesday.

ALSO READ | Karnataka Congress Leaders Deny ‘Operation Hasta’ Buzz, But Ghar Wapsi of MLAs May Give Party Upper ‘Hand’

It is one of the five poll guarantees that helped the Congress win big last May. The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) maintained a distance, criticising the scheme, calling it “flawed” and “a gimmick”.


Interestingly, one of their MLAs S T Somashekhar broke ranks, participating in a Griha Lakshmi scheme launch event in his constituency in Bengaluru city. Defending his decision, he said it would benefit the poor women across Karnataka.

A few days ago, Somashekhar had met Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and KPCC president DK Shivakumar, who is also the deputy CM, leading to speculations about his and some other BJP MLAs’ defection to the Congress. While the Congress almost confirmed it, Somashekhar gave an evasive reply.

A few days later, another BJP MLA Shivaram Hebbar also met the two leaders and later issued an ambiguous statement, confirming his willingness to switch sides.

Two other BJP MLAs Gopalaiah and Munirathna also made similar statements a few days later.

Interestingly, three of the four had defected from the Congress to the BJP during the monsoon of 2019, toppling the JDS-Congress coalition in the state. Gopalaiah had defected from the JDS to BJP. A few months later, all of them won the bypolls on a BJP ticket and bagged plum ministerial berths.

According to top Congress sources, not just these four, at least 10-15 MLAs from both the BJP and JDS are eager to join the ruling party ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

ALSO READ | Congress in Karnataka Looks at Inducting Leaders from Opposition to Shore Up LS Election Prospects

A rattled BJP has been trying to pacify the turncoats and is maintaining that they won’t switch sides.

Understandably, the BJP does not want a negative perception closer to Parliamentary elections. But the state unit is increasingly looking rudderless, as the party high command in New Delhi is showing no urgency in appointing a leader of the opposition in both the houses of the state legislature. Some of the disgruntled MLAs admit that the indecision of the high command is also responsible for their disillusionment.


According to some of his close aides, Siddaramaiah is not keen on taking these turncoats back into the party fold. He feels people might think he was behind their defections in 2019 to unseat CM HD Kumaraswamy. But Shivakumar is insisting that their return to the Congress will deal a big blow to the BJP in Bengaluru city in the Lok Sabha elections. The BJP has been winning all three Lok Sabha seats in the state Capital since 2009 and the ruling Congress wants to win at least two seats back by poaching their MLAs.

Besides Lok Sabha elections, the Congress also wants to win the prestigious civic body — Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) — in the elections likely to be held in a few months.

Speaking to the media, Shivakumar said that dozens of MLAs from both the BJP and JDS are in touch with him and the party is not averse to taking some of them. However, he refused to divulge the details.

In private, he maintains that Siddaramaiah should not come in the way of the homecoming of the turncoats and defection of others, keeping the bigger picture in mind.

ALSO READ | ‘This Will Change Their Lives’: Karnataka’s Shivakumar on Griha Lakshmi Scheme Launch Today | Exclusive

The Karnataka BJP unit looks directionless with no clear orders from New Delhi. The faction-ridden unit is busy fighting with each other for the post of state president and leader of the opposition. Exploiting the confusion and disenchantment in the main opposition, the ruling Congress is trying to hit them hard.

Some informed sources in the Congress claim that at least three-four opposition MLAs are likely to join them before Deepavali. If that happens, it might open the doors for many more MLAs closer to Lok Sabha elections. However, the BJP is hopeful of keeping its stable safe from the raiders.

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