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Karnataka BJP panel to review defectors who want to join, but cadres divided on it. Here’s why

Committee is being set up under state BJP chief Kateel, amid ‘insider-vs-outsider’ internal debate that started since those leaders who defected to party in 2019 got plum posts.

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Bengaluru: All political parties in Karnataka are gearing up for next year’s assembly elections, but the BJP has gone a step ahead in planning for a phenomenon that is a big part of all poll countdowns — defectors.

Following a meeting chaired by Union Home Minister and former BJP chief Amit Shah last Friday, the party’s Karnataka unit is all set to constitute a committee under the leadership of state chief Nalin Kumar Kateel, to review leaders defecting to the BJP from other parties.

“Many people are interested in joining the BJP. We will only welcome those who can add strength to the BJP and have concern for people’s welfare. Under the state president’s leadership, a special team will be formed to see who can be allowed to join. Wherever we see a need to induct someone, we will let them join,” C.T. Ravi, senior Karnataka BJP leader and one of the party’s national general secretaries, told reporters.

However, while other committee members are yet to be named, the BJP cadre is divided over the panel’s purpose and efficiency.

Also read: BJP slams Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw for ‘growing divide’ in Karnataka remark, she has ‘faith in govt’

Insider vs outsider squabble

The initiative to review BJP aspirants comes in the midst of an ‘insider versus outsider’ squabble brewing in the BJP’s Karnataka unit since 2019. Back then, 16 legislators had jumped to the BJP from the JD(S)-Congress coalition, helping it come to power in the state.

Of the 16, 13 were fielded by the BJP in the next assembly bypolls, and 10 were inducted into the B.S. Yediyurappa ministry. Ten of the 2019 defectors are also ministers in the Basavaraj Bommai cabinet, but often spark demand for cabinet berths.

The new committee, the BJP hopes, will help in cutting down discomfort between loyal cadres and newcomers.

“Nobody wants to join any party without expecting something out of it. Whether it is ticket, or post or position, the committee will consider all such expectations. The committee’s purpose will be to ensure there is no problem during the joining or after it too,” N. Ravi Kumar, general secretary of the Karnataka BJP, told ThePrint.

According to BJP leaders, the committee will assess the winning potential of candidates who want to join the party, how they fit into the scheme of things, and what they bring to the table. The party hopes to induct only those leaders who can win elections on their own merit, open up new constituencies for the BJP, or contribute towards increasing the party’s vote share considerably.

“In an election year, it is important to consider what every leader brings to the party. Whether it is more caste support, financial viability to contest elections or support in new geographical regions where the party needs a stronger hold… All these will naturally become yardsticks,” Ravi Kumar added.

To review or not to review

While the BJP has high hopes from the committee, the cadre is divided in its opinion about its utility.

“Can such a committee really review senior leaders from other parties or turn them away? Will big names even agree to be scrutinised?” asked a senior BJP legislator on the condition of anonymity.

“Many big names directly get in touch with the central leadership of the BJP. What will be the role of such a committee then? It, more or less, will remain a coordination cell between those who want to join the party and the central leadership,” the legislator added.

The legislator did admit, however, that the state unit was right in expecting defectors from other parties, explaining that the BJP’s victory in four of five states where assembly elections were held earlier this year, had made it a desirable option for many.

But legislators’ view of the efficacy of the committee are not misplaced.

On Sunday, senior JD(S) MLC and current chairman of Karnataka Legislative Council, Basavaraj Horatti, announced that he would contest the next council elections on behalf of the BJP.

“BJP leaders themselves approached me and asked me to contest on their party ticket. I have been elected multiple times from the teachers’ constituency and the current trend favours the BJP. Many of my constituents are today youngsters who are torn between their support for BJP and me. To make things smoother, I have decided to contest on a BJP ticket,” Horatti told ThePrint.

The senior leader will not go through any review process from the committee.

“He is directly in talks with former CM Yediyurappa, who recommended his name to Amit Shah. The review process would be redundant in his case,” a senior BJP office bearer told ThePrint.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

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