Squabbling Karnataka BJP scapegoats Congress for the conduct of poached MLAs

As infighting in the Karnataka BJP increases, former minister Eshwarappa blames Congress defectors for his own party's indiscipline

K.S. Eshwarappa (photo: National Herald)
K.S. Eshwarappa (photo: National Herald)

Naheed Ataulla

Infighting and blame games in the Karnataka BJP over the party's debacle in the state assembly elections held in May are escalating by the day. Senior party leader K.S. Eshwarappa said on 26 June that he holds turncoat legislators from the Congress, who helped the BJP to form the government in 2019, responsible for the worsening "indiscipline".

Some senior BJP functionaries levelled allegations against their own leaders about "adjustment politics with the Congress'' (per C.T. Ravi in an introspection meeting a fortnight ago), flagging this as the cause for the party's defeat.

In turn, Eshwarappa has accused the former Congress defectors who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2019 of ushering in the winds of indiscipline. "Here and there, discipline has gone as the party has grown. When only four of us were there,* there was a lot of discipline. So here and there, the Congress's wind has affected us, as many from that party have also joined us," he maintained.

Eshwarappa and former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa are acknowledged as the leaders who laid the BJP's foundation in Karnataka.

When it was pointed out that it was the BJP leaders who got people from the Congress to join the party, Eshwarappa responded, "As we got them, we are suffering today. Our high command is not weak and will take action when necessary. They have allowed them to wag their tails, but they will be cut to size."

As many as 14 Congress and three Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs had resigned from the Karnataka Assembly in 2019, thus bringing down the 14-month-old coalition government of the Congress and the JD(S) led by H.D. Kumaraswamy. In subsequent bypolls, 15 of these 17 were given tickets, and 12 ended up coming back as BJP MLAs.

Eshwarappa is not alone in blaming the state BJP leaders for the rout, however. The BJP's national general secretary C.T. Ravi, who himself lost the elections from Chikkamagaluru, considered a stronghold of the saffron party, was the first to come up with the allegations of "compromise politics".

Ravi said several BJP members had urged the Bommai-led government to table the Justice K.S. Kempanna Commission report, which probed the alleged Rs 8,000 crore Arkavathy land denotification scam and  irregularities in the tender process followed to set up solar power units during Siddaramaiah's tenure from 2013 to 2018. "Adjustment and compromise politics by our leaders harmed our party. If we had exposed the Congress leaders, the BJP would have returned to power," he added.

Ravi's statement was endorsed by Mysuru Lok Sabha MP Prathap Simha and former chief minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who claimed the Bommai government did very little to counter the allegations the Congress was levelling against the ruling BJP, including the '40 per cent sarkara' tag.

The blame game is not confined to the leaders, as some senior BJP members who lost also claimed that their own party members plotted to defeat them. Former minister M.T.B. Nagaraj, who declared assets worth Rs 1,609 crore and was defeated from Hoskote constituency, blamed former minister K. Sudhakar, who was also defeated, and Bommai for his debacle.

Meanwhile, the party is yet to pick a person for the opposition leader's post in the Assembly, with the legislature session about to commence from July 3. Front-runners are Bommai, former minister V. Sunil Kumar and Basanagouda Patil Yatnal.

The state unit's leadership post is to be filled too, as the term of the incumbent president, party MP Nalin Kumar Kateel, ended in August 2022, yet he was asked to continue till the polls.

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