The first time the Congress and JD(S) formed a coalition in Karnataka in 2004, the alliance broke as quickly as it was formed. The then JD(S) state president HD Kumaraswamy was disgruntled as he was not made the Chief Minister. To obtain the CM’s seat, Kumaraswamy gathered all JD(S) MLAs and jumped ship. He had done what was unimaginable for the JDS. He had aligned with the BJP.
Now, 14 years after the Congress-JD(S) alliance failed, the same coalition is once again on the brink of breaking up. This time, not because Kumaraswamy is miffed. But because a large chunk of Congress leaders are disgruntled.
However, one aspect of these two scenarios remains unchanged - BJP's Operation Kamala. In 2004, although the BJP had not managed to poach JD(S) candidates, the party had obtained Kumaraswamy’s “unconditional support”.
This tactic of poaching leaders from opposition parties or convincing them to jump ship, thereby rendering the parties powerless has been deployed by BJP in states across the country.
What's more, BJP sources say that the party has approached 16 Congress MLAs so far, who the party claims are willing to defect to the BJP. The plan is to lure 20 MLAs to their side.
Highly placed sources in the BJP say that in the event that the party comes to power, it has offered Municipalities Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi the post of Deputy Chief Minister.
"The deal is simple. Ramesh Jarkiholi will get the Deputy CM post and three other leaders from those who have defected will get cabinet berths and control over transfers in their departments. The remaining will get tickets to contest bye-elections and money," the source said.
The BJP had won 104 seats in the 2018 Assembly Elections, just nine short of majority. If it manages to get at least 17 Congress MLAs to defect, the strength of the House reduces to 207, giving the Yeddyurappa-led BJP in the state a shot at power once again.
When the Karnataka Assembly Election results were announced in May, Kumaraswamy had announced that the BJP was trying to poach leaders by offering them Rs 100 crore each. The source in the BJP says that the current offer exceeds Rs 100 crore per MLA.
Currently the Jarkiholi brothers Ramesh and Satish have allegedly agreed to jump ship. BJP insiders say that the party has also approached Kagawad Congress MLA Srimant Baba Saheb Patil, Chikkaballapur Congress MLA Dr Sudhakar Reddy, Chintamani JDS MLA Krishna Reddy, Hosakote MLA MTB Nagaraju and Basavakalyan MLA Narayan Rao.
"Sriramulu has spoken with Congress MLAs from Ballari Bheema Naik, Vijayanagara MLA Anand Singh and Ballari MLA Nagendra. He has communicated to seniors that he will be able to bring all MLAs from Ballari to align with the BJP. The party had also approached senior leaders Siddaramaiah and RV Deshpande. Siddaramaiah was offered the Governorship of Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh. But both leaders have not yet given us the green signal,” the source said.
Meanwhile, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President Dinesh Gundu Rao said that the Congress had also been holding talks with several BJP leaders, who are allegedly willing to join the party.
“If they poach from us we also know how to retaliate. There are BJP leaders waiting to join the Congress,” Dinesh Gundu Rao told the media on Wednesday.
Sources in the Congress say that Ramesh and Satish Jarkiholi, who spearheaded the rebellion, had put forth four central demands on Tuesday to all senior party leaders in the coalition government and also the high command.
“Their first demand is that DK Shivakumar should not interfere in Belagavi’s politics. Secondly, they demanded that they be given complete control of the workings of Belagavi Congress. Thirdly, they demanded that one leader from the Valmiki Nayak community (which the Jarkiholis belong to) must be given a plum cabinet berth during the reshuffle and finally, that 5-6 of their supporters be offered chairmanship of various state-run boards and corporations,” the source added.
Congress insiders say that the party’s high command has instructed state leaders to concede to the demands of the Jarkiholis. Sources said talks were held with Ramesh Jarkiholi on Tuesday and that the leader assured that he and his brother Satish would remain in the Congress.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Deputy Chief Minister Dr G Parameshwara said that the BJP’s “stories about defection was a plant”.
“These are all planted stories. No one is defecting. We will remain in power for the next five years,” Parameshwara added.
However, BJP insiders say that although Ramesh Jarkiholi has assured the Congress leaders that he would not defect, he had bigger plans.
“Ramesh Jarkiholi sees himself as the Chief Minister of Karnataka in the next 10 years. DK Shivakumar too has the same aspirations. Currently, none of the Congress leaders have power. Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy have usurped all of it. All transfers are being headed by Revanna. The Congress ministers are not getting what they want. So many leaders are unhappy with the JD(S). They are keeping a low profile now to ensure that DK Shivakumar does not ship them off to resorts once again,” the BJP source said.