It’s finally official, former Karnataka chief minister and Congress veteran SM Krishna has joined the BJP. Meeting BJP National President Amit Shah, Minister Ananth Kumar and others in Delhi, Krishna formally joined the party on March 22, close to two months after he quit the Congress.
Krishna’s decision to quit the grand old party on January 29 came as a surprise to many. After all, he had been a Congress loyalist for 46 years. Krishna came into politics with the Praja Socialist Party, winning the Maddur Assembly seat in 1962. However, he soon joined the Congress (I) led by Indira Gandhi, contesting the 1971 parliamentary elections.
Over the years, he rose through the party’s ranks, finally becoming Karnataka Chief Minister in 1999. Although the Congress lost elections in 2004, Krishna himself cemented his reputation of being a clean administrator with a development-friendly vision for the future, particularly within Bengaluru. After the Congress lost in 2004 Assembly elections, Krishna was installed in the Maharashtra Governor’s post from 2004-2008. In 2009, he was promoted to a Union cabinet position, becoming Minister for External Affairs in the Manmohan Singh government.
Krishna’s fortunes turned in 2012, when he was asked to step down as External Affairs Minister, the reasons for which were never made public. There has been speculation, however, that the leader’s age-related disabilities or conflicts of interest were behind the move. His disappointment with the party deepened in 2015, when he was told that he would not be re-nominated to the Rajya Sabha.
But it took Krishna nearly two years to take the step of leaving the Congress, announcing that he was doing so because he had been sidelined by the party leadership. Although a number of senior leaders approached him to reconsider his decision, Krishna announced on January 29, “These days the Congress depends only on situation managers and not time-tested leaders or workers like me...I am leaving the party with a heavy heart.”
And it took another seven weeks of speculation for him to finally formally step into the BJP. Wooing him into the BJP fold was a Dalit former Congress leader, Shrinivas Prasad, who had himself quit after being dropped from a post in the Siddaramaiah cabinet.
With elections coming up in 2018, Krishna’s departure from the Congress soon after Prasad’s has given the party’s representative image a strong blow. Krishna’s stature as a Vokkaliga leader in the old Mysuru region may not be as high as JD (S) leader Deve Gowda. But added to Mahadev Prasad’s death in January, these resignations have meant that the Congress is left without strong Vokkaliga, Dalit or Lingayat faces. Krishna was also one of the urban faces of the party, having established his pro-development reputation during his tenure as Chief Minister.