Kumaraswamy threatening MLAs to buy votes for RS polls: Shivakumar

Kumaraswamy, his father H.D. Deve Gowda, and their Janata Dal (S) have become electoral allies of the BJP

D.K. Shivakumar (left) and H.D. Kumaraswamy
D.K. Shivakumar (left) and H.D. Kumaraswamy

Naheed Ataulla

Karnataka Pradesh Congress committee president and deputy chief minister D.K. Shivakumar on Monday said he has information that former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda's son and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy was making offers to Congress MLAs to "buy votes" for the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections. 

“We are aware of who Kumaraswamy is making phone calls to, what he is saying, and what offers he is making. Our MLAs have given us all the information. We are aware of the BJP’s game plan too," Shivakumar told reporters at the Vidhan Soudha (Assembly). "He (Kumaraswamy) has threatened them (MLAs). I am aware of it. I will not speak on it now."

Deve Gowda's Janata Dal (Secular) party — a king-maker of sorts in the formation of past governments and an old hand at fielding business magnates for the Rajya Sabha despite its numbers in the Assembly not crossing 60, with 58 seats in 2004 being the highest — is seemingly back to its old games.

For the 27 February Rajya Sabha polls, Gowda and his son, with 19 JD(S) MLAs in their new avatar as the electoral ally of the BJP, have fielded party man and business magnate D. Kupendra Reddy as the NDA candidate.

The surprise last-minute entry of Reddy, who calls himself an 'infrastructure developer' in his election affidavit, has turned the elections to the four Rajya Sabha seats, expected to be an unopposed contest, into a likely scenario for horse trading and cross-voting, with the fate of the fourth candidate to be elected hanging by four votes.

The Congress has fielded three candidates based on its 135 MLAs and support from three independents, and the BJP with 66 MLAs and one independent has put up one nominee. Each candidate has to get 45 first preference votes to be elected, and both the Congress and BJP were comfortable with their numbers.

With Reddy in the field, the contest for the fourth seat will be between him and sitting Congress MP G.C. Chandrashekar. The first and second Congress candidates are AICC treasurer Ajay Maken and sitting MP Syed Naseer Hussain. The BJP has fielded former MLC Narayana Krishnasa Bhandage, who was associated with the Ram temple movement.

Justifying the fielding of an "NDA candidate", Kumaraswamy said this was done on the advice of the BJP central leadership. "We do not want surplus votes to be wasted," he explained. While Reddy's entry has created a flutter, the Congress is confident that all its three candidates will sail through, and on the contrary, expects some BJP and JD(S) MLAs upset with the Gowda-Modi pact to cross-vote.

Chief minister Siddaramaiah told National Herald that the sole motive of Kumaraswamy in putting up a candidate was to keep the JD(S) flock together. There has been speculation of some unhappy JD(S) and BJP MLAs wanting to cross over to the Congress. "None of our Congress MLAs will succumb to horse-trading as no one wants to be disqualified when they have a tenure of four more years. Cross-voting from the JD(S) or BJP will not be a surprise,'' Siddaramaiah said.

Shivakumar added, “The Congress will get ‘conscience votes’ from JD(S) and BJP for its candidates. We too have friends (MLAs) across parties.''

How does the math work out? Each candidate has to get 45 first-preference votes. The Congress with 135 MLAs has the exact numbers with the support of independents Darshan Puttannaiah, Latha Mallikarjun and K.H. Puttaswamy Gowda.

The BJP with 66 MLAs and one independent, G. Janardhan Reddy, will be left with 22 surplus votes. As Reddy is an NDA candidate, the BJP will transfer the 22 surplus votes to him, who after getting the 19 JD(S) votes will fall short by four votes.

All MLAs have to show their ballot papers to their party's polling agent before dropping them in the ballot box, which does not apply to the independents. In the past, cross-voting has taken place, leading to the disqualification of MLAs for defying the party whip.

How Reddy will garner the four votes to get past Chandrashekar is the question. With prior experience of being the JD(S) candidate since the 2014 RS polls, Reddy, whose declared assets in the election affidavit were Rs 824 crore in 2022, claims to have friends in all parties.

A former Congressman, Reddy was picked up by the JD(S) in 2014 to contest the RS elections as an independent when the Congress did not give him a ticket. He won the polls and in 2022, was once again fielded by the JD(S), which went back on its word after promising to support the Congress candidate. In the elections to four seats in 2022 with six candidates in the fray, the BJP, which did not have the requisite numbers to get a third candidate elected, managed to win, defeating the Congress's second candidate Mansoor Ali Khan, while Reddy lost.

The trend of business tycoons entering Parliament through the upper house from Karnataka was set by Vijay Mallya in 2002, who contested as an independent with tacit support from the Congress. Two years later, the JD(S) followed, and since 2004, has been a benefactor to business magnates seeking to get into the Rajya Sabha.

In 2004, the party surprised everyone by backing industrialist and racehorse owner M.A.M Ramaswamy, while businessman and present Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar was the choice in 2006 and 2012. In 2010, the party sponsored the candidature of Mallya, who won with BJP support.

Congress sources said the party was confident of its votes remaining intact. "The BJP and JD(S) have to keep an eye on its MLAs as some have openly identified with us," they said, without naming BJP MLAs Shivaram Hebbar and S.T. Somashekhar and JD(S) MLA Sharangouda Kandakur, who have stopped attending their respective party meetings.

With PTI inputs

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines