The plan, say BJP leaders, is to rule Karnataka by the time Lok Sabha elections come around.
Bengaluru: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is allegedly making efforts to topple Karnataka’s Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition government by discreetly launching Operation Kamala 3.0 to poach legislators from the two parties. The idea, sources say, is to be in office when the Lok Sabha elections are held in 2019.
Operation Kamala was the successful coup launched by the BJP in the state after the 2008 assembly election, when its seat share (110) fell just three short of a majority in the 224-member house.
The party approached Congress and JD(S) MLAs, asking them to resign from the assembly on personal grounds.
Those who agreed were later fielded from the same constituency on a BJP ticket. The operation increased the BJP’s tally by five seats, and the party went on to form its first-ever solo government in a southern state.
Version 2.0 came after the assembly election in May, when voters threw up a fractured verdict: While the BJP emerged the biggest player with 104 seats, the Congress got 80, and the JD(S) 37; one seat each went to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party (KPJP), and an Independent.
However, just as arch rivals Congress and JD(S) cobbled together a post-poll alliance, the BJP staked claim to form the government, with former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa saying he would manage to prove a majority. Claims of cash offers flew fast and thick – as did purported audio recordings of the negotiations – but the BJP had to resign after it failed to muster the numbers.
Op Kamala 3.0
Sources in the party confirmed, off the record, that there have been several rounds of discussions between Yeddyurappa and “disgruntled” Congress and JD(S) leaders.
The BJP central leadership is said to have given Yeddyurappa a free hand to ensure that the party does not miss an opportunity to form the government if the JD(S) and Congress coalition, reported to be on uneasy terms on multiple occasions, collapses.
At a meeting held to discuss “disgruntlement” within the coalition, Yeddyurappa reportedly said “many Congress and JD(S) MLAs are feeling suffocated… and have conveyed their wish to join the BJP”.
“The BJP has plans to ensure that the present government does not exist by the time the Lok Sabha elections are held,” a senior leader of the BJP told ThePrint.
“Since the day we lost power to Kumaraswamy, we have tried to pull close to 18 to 20 MLAs from the JD(S) and the Congress,” a BJP functionary said.
Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has warned the BJP that any attempt to implement the poaching operation will not succeed. He has even threatened Yeddyurappa, the Karnataka BJP chief, that he will release an audio clip to prove the party was trying to lure MLAs to its fold.
“I sent Nagamangala MLA Suresh Gowda to Yeddyurappa and I have their conversation on the record now to prove that they are poaching our legislators,” the chief minister said. “I will release the audio when the time is right.”
Officially, the BJP has dismissed the allegations.
“If the government falls on its own, then we will take a call on it,” said BJP spokesperson S. Prakash.
“As of now, we are in the opposition and we will work as a strong opposition. The perception that the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to form the government… is wrong,” he said. “The BJP is needlessly being blamed.”
Even so, the BJP’s alleged attempts to woo rival legislators with money and promise of powerful posts have reportedly not yielded much result so far.
One recent example involved Congress MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi, who sought to flex his muscles by openly seeking more posts for his followers. The BJP is said to have jumped at the open rebellion and informed Jarkiholi that he could have what he wanted if he crossed over with 15 MLAs.
But the BJP’s efforts failed as former chief minister Siddaramaiah returned from a foreign tour and spoke to Jarkiholi and others, promising them that the high command would sort out their issues.
When some media reports suggested that a group of unhappy Congress MLAs had left for a Mumbai resort as part of a plan to quit the party together, Siddaramaiah tweeted: “Our government is stable; none of the @INCKarnataka MLAs have gone to Mumbai.”
He added, “@BJP4Karnataka is trying to lure our MLAs by offering 100 times more money than what @narendramodi promised to deposit in everyone’s account. Our MLAs have shared all the details with the party.”
The charge was reiterated by the wife of JD(S) MLA H.K. Kumaraswamy, who alleged that an aide of Yeddyurappa had offered them Rs 30 crore to join the BJP. She alleged that Uday Gowda, whose name was also mentioned by the chief minister, had also offered them a ministerial berth.
Yeddyurappa’s lone quest
While the BJP’s central brass is looking for an opportunity to form a government if the coalition collapses, they don’t want to effect a rebellion. They are still sour about the bad press triggered by the leaked tapes after the polls this May, BJP leaders said.
Analysts say even the state BJP is divided on whether to orchestrate a rebellion, adding that this may be the reason for the limited success.
Political analyst Sandeep Shastri said that it was only Yeddyurappa and his supporters who were keen on toppling the Kumaraswamy government.
“It doesn’t seem like the BJP national leadership wants to indulge in any political gymnastics at this point of time as its attempt will jeopardise their chances in the 2019 elections, both in Karnataka as well as nationally,” he said.
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