A day after the Supreme Court paved the way for them to contest the December 5 Assembly bypolls in Karnataka, 16 disqualified Congress-JD(S) legislators on Thursday joined the BJP here, and most of them are likely to get party tickets.
BJP that aims to win a majority of the 15 constituencies where bypolls will be held is likely to field most of them as the party candidates, and the indication to this effect came directly from Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, as he addressed disqualified legislators as “future MLAs and Ministers”, while welcoming them into the party.
Yediyurappa, along with the state chief Nalin Kumar Kateel and National General Secretary in charge of Karnataka, P Muralidhar Rao were among those who welcomed them into the party fold at state BJP headquarters here.
Senior party leaders said the state BJP is likely to send its final list of candidates to the central leadership for approval by Thursday evening. The Supreme Court on Wednesday had upheld the disqualification of 17 Congress-JD(S) MLAs in Karnataka by the then Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar but paved the way for them to contest the by-polls.
While upholding their disqualification, the apex court set aside the portion of the orders by the then Speaker by which the legislators were disqualified till the end of the current Assembly’s term in 2023.
However, R Roshan Baig, a disqualified Congress legislator from Shivajinagar, was not inducted into the party on Thursday. BJP sources cited “reservations” expressed by party leadership over Baig, who is facing inquiry in the IMA ponzi scam, among the reasons for his non-induction.
Interestingly, Baig, a seven-time legislator, on Wednesday claimed he will be joining BJP along with the other legislators. According to top party sources, BJP is likely to field former corporator from Ulsoor M Saravana from Shivajinagarconstituency as the candidate.
Saravana too has confirmed his candidature. “It is because of the sacrifice of these 17 Congress-JD(S) legislators and they quitting as MLAs, some even as Minister, I have been able to take oath as the Chief Minister,” Yediyurappa said. Welcoming disqualified MLAs and their supporters, he said, “as the Chief Minister along with the party President I would like to assure you that, we will keep up the promise made to you the word to word and won’t betray you.”
The Chief Minister also requested party men to work for their victory, by stating that “ensuring their victory is on us, as BJP karyakartas” and called on them to keep aside minor differences. “We will hundred percent win 15 out of 15 seats, let there be no doubt, I want to assure this to those joining the party. My greetings to former MLAs, who are also the future MLAs and Ministers,” he added.
The call from Yediyurappa to work keeping aside differences came even as a rebellion within the party against giving tickets to disqualified, with Sharath Bachegowda in Hoskote filing nomination as an independent candidate and former party MLA from Kagwad- Raju Kage deciding to quit the party to join Congress.
Muralidhar Rao expressed confidence of winning all 15 seats in the bypolls. Kateel welcoming disqualified to “BJP family”, said the Congress troubled by infighting was unable to find candidates in 15 constituencies, where JD(S) “has no base”.
Speaking after joining the BJP, disqualified JD(S) MLA from Hunsur A H Vishwanath claimed they quit the party, not for power, but to put an end to “evil politics” of Congress and JD(S). He said they are quitting the party was not an act of defection but was part of “polarisation” in favor of development.
The disqualified Congress MLAs who joined BJP are:Pratap Gowda Patil (Maski), B C Patil (Hirekerur), ShivramHebbar (Yellapur), S T Somashekar (Yeshwanthpur), ByratiBasavaraj (K R Puram), Anand Singh (Vijayanagara), N Munirathna (R R Nagar), K Sudhakar (Chikkaballapura), MTB Nagaraj (Hoskote), Shrimant Patil (Kagwad), Ramesh Jarkiholi (Gokak), Mahesh Kumatalli (Athani) and R Shankar (Ranibennur).
The JD(S) members who joined the party are K Gopalaiah(Mahalakshmi Layout), AH Vishwanath (Hunsur) and KC NarayanaGowda (K R Pet). Though M T B Nagaraj was not present at the event, BJP leaders said he has taken party membership and will be filing nomination.
Bypolls to 15 of 17 seats represented by disqualified MLAs, whose resignation and absence from the trust vote had lead to the collapse of the H D Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in July, will be held on December 5. The BJP will need to win at least six out of those 15 seats to remain in power. Fifteen out of the 17 constituencies represented by these MLAs will be going for bypolls, while by-elections to Maski and R R Nagar constituencies have been withheld as separate cases with regard to them, are pending before the High Court. Of the 15 constituencies, 12 were represented by Congress and three by JD(S).