The saffron party has already poached Congress leaders Malikayya Guttedar, Baburao Chinchansur and AB Malakareddy.

Ktaka BJP strategy for Assembly polls Poach candidates with grassroots support
news Politics Monday, January 22, 2018 - 17:15

With just over three months for the Karnataka Assembly Elections, the state’s BJP unit is leaving no stone unturned to ensure victory.

With the Congress and JD(S) already trying to poach candidates from each other and from the BJP, the saffron party has come up with a plan to turn the tables.

“The plan is to ensure that the BJP brings in leaders from the Congress and JD(S) who have strong grassroots support. It is impossible to bring in Congress heavyweights as they are bound to win and will stick to the party. But it is the second tier leaders, who are closer to the grassroots movement, that the party is eyeing,” a senior BJP leader told TNM.

He said that the saffron party has a list of disgruntled Congress and JD(S) leaders whom they have already approached with hopes that they would join the party.

“We are waiting for them to give us a green signal and we will announce the defection within a month,” he added.

The saffron party has already poached Congress leaders Malikayya Guttedar, Baburao Chinchansur and AB Malakareddy from Gulbarga district.

“These leaders have strong grassroots support, but they were very unhappy with the Congress when a young Priyank Kharge was made minister and they lost their chance of getting a good portfolio. Everyone knows that Priyank was made the Tourism Minister only to appease Mallikarjun Kharge when he lost his chance to become the CM last time,” the BJP leader added.

Meanwhile, the Congress has asked state intelligence officials to conduct surveys in order to finalise its candidate list. According to a source with knowledge about the issue, Siddaramaiah through his trusted aide, Kempaiah, had ordered a survey to be conducted.

“The CM wanted to contest from the Chamundeshwari constituency in Mysuru district, but the survey showed that he would lose by a margin of over 25,000 votes if he stood there. Similarly, it was revealed that in the Nanjangud and Gundlupet bye-polls, the Congress won only because it had spent over Rs 50 crore just to swing the two constituencies,” the source added.

In 2008, after delimitation of constituencies was implemented, a huge chunk of villages where Siddaramaiah had gathered support was shifted to the Varuna constituency.

Siddaramaiah won four consecutive elections from Chamundeshwari constituency but contested from Varuna in the 2013 Assembly polls. With his support base being shifted, the source says that Siddaramaiah is mulling over contesting either in Bengaluru’s Hebbal or in Koppal or Badami constituencies.

“Currently the plan is to contest in two constituencies. The chances are that he may win in one. In case he wins in both the places, then he will give up one constituency and elections will be held in the other constituency once more. For Siddaramaiah, losing means that there is a high risk of him losing his support at the ground level and he is not taking any risk,” a Congress functionary said.

In Bidar district, the BJP is trying to quell the call for a separate Lingayat religion by poaching one of the most prominent Congress leaders, Eshwara Khandre.

“Since 2017, Khandre has been supporting the demand for a separate Lingayat religion. The reason the BJP wants him is because of the support he has. Talks are on and if they are fruitful, then it would be easy to turn the Congress’ move to divide the Lingayat votes,” the source added.

The BJP has also managed to poach Manappa Vajjal, the former Lingsugur MLA, and Shivraj Patil from Raichur district.

The JD(S) is pulling up its socks too and has held talks with Primary Education Minister Tanveer Sait. JD(S) sources say that Tanveer Sait is not happy about the Congress denying him a ticket to contest from Mysuru.

“The Congress is planning to field Tanveer Sait from Raichur and if that happens he will switch to JD(S). However, he is also being approached by the BJP,” the source added.

BJP insiders say that in order to safeguard coastal districts and the Mysuru region, the party is planning to hold talks with the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) to push them to contest the 2018 polls.

“If SDPI contests, then Congress will lose its Muslim vote bank. The Congress and JD(S) have been holding talks with the SDPI for a few months now to try and convince its leaders not to contest the 2018 polls. SDPI will not win a majority. That is a given. But in Hyderabad-Karnataka and pockets of Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada, Chikkamagaluru and Mysuru districts, there are chances that the SDPI will win if they contest. This means that the Congress will lose a few seats,” the BJP source added.

Congress sources, however, admitted that the party is facing trouble trying to convince BJP leaders to defect.

“There are talks with several leaders in Ballari and coastal Karnataka regions. It is taking time, but we are hoping they will join the party. Several of them have already declined our offer," the Congress source added.