Rumours are rife that the BJP has approached Shamanur Shivashakarappa, his son SS Mallikarjun, and Pramod Madhwaraj.

Karnataka 2018 polls BJP in backroom talks with Cong ministers
news Karnataka 2018 Thursday, March 22, 2018 - 11:34

Is the Karnataka Minister for Fisheries, Sports and Youth Affairs, Pramod Madhwaraj, joining the BJP? Are Veerashaiva leaders Shamanur Shivashankarappa and his son SS Mallikarjun defecting too? 

With elections approaching, the BJP in Karnataka is trying to lure important Congress leaders to their side and backroom talks have already begun, party insiders say.

The Congress’ controversial move to approve the demand for a separate minority Lingayat religion and send the proposal for the Centre’s nod has raised eyebrows. Especially since the Minister for Horticulture and Agro Marketing, Shamanur Shivashankarappa, who is also the President of the Veerashaiva Mahasabha, announced on Tuesday that he would oppose the party’s move.

“It was already known to many in political circles that the BJP was trying to lure several Congress ministers to its fold. Yes, the BJP has held talks with Shamanur Shivashakarappa and his son SS Mallikarjun, but it is not confirmed whether they are joining the BJP,” a BJP functionary said.

Apart from Shivashanakarappa, the BJP has reportedly approached Pramod Madhwaraj also. Speculation surrounding Madhwaraj’s possible defection has been in the news for the past year but he has time and again reiterated that he has never “spoken of joining the BJP”.

“I have never said that I will join the BJP. Yes, they (BJP) have approached me several times but I have never said I would join the BJP,” Madhwaraj said.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday dismissed the speculations and said that “Pramod Madhwaraj would never join the BJP.”

“The BJP has been troubling Pramod Madhwaraj for a long time. I can say that he will never join the BJP. The BJP has also been troubling several ministers by hounding them to leave Congress but we have loyal leaders in our party,” Siddaramaiah said.

In the past one week, ahead of AICC President Rahul Gandhi’s visit to coastal Karnataka, talks of Madhwaraj joining the BJP has once again gathered media attention. This began when it was observed that Madhwaraj’s campaign vehicle did not bear the Congress party symbol.

“Everyone knows that the BJP has approached Madhwaraj with offers to join them on several occasions. Madhwaraj has said that he has been approached by the BJP but he has not conclusively said that he won’t join the BJP. He keeps saying, ‘I never said I would join the BJP’ but he has also not said ‘yes, I will stay with Congress’,” a senior Congress leader said.

A former bureaucrat, Madhwaraj won from the Udupi Assembly constituency in the 2013 elections for the first time. “The rumour is that the BJP high command has some incriminating information about Madhwaraj which they plan to use in order to lure him to their fold. It may be so that the BJP is trying to blackmail Madhwaraj into joining the party,” the source added.

Madhwaraj is the only Congress leader in Udupi who has strong support from Congress leaders and who has also maintained a good relationship with political opponents. Madhwaraj is also a favoured candidate in the region because of the wealth he brings in, the source said.

“The rumours began when media reports emerged about how Pramod Madhwaraj had gone soft on his opponent Shobha Karandlaje, who attacks the Congress given the slightest opportunity. Although Shobha has attacked CM Siddaramaiah and the Congress rule, Madhwaraj has never spoken against her or the BJP. There was speculation that since his mother Manorama is with the BJP, he too is planning to shift to the party, which is why he was not criticising the opposition,” a Congress leader with knowledge about the goings-on said.

With the latest controversy about Pramod Madhwaraj ignoring Congress leaders, including CM Siddaramaiah and Rahul Gandhi, while not displaying the Congress symbol on his election publicity vehicle, the speculation has once again surfaced.

“Pramod has been campaigning for himself and not for the party. He never reveals his plans about his campaigns and ignores some of the party’s suggestions; this has given some leaders reason to believe that he may join the BJP,” the source added.

BJP sources say that the party’s high command is undecided about Madhwaraj’s induction, especially after several leaders expressed their disappointment about his entry.

“Jayaprakash Hegde, a former Congress MP, had defected to the BJP in March last year. He was also not happy about Madhwaraj’s joining. It is true that the party had approached him on several occasions,” the source added.

“There is one more reason for Pramod Madhwaraj to be lured into the BJP. He was the parliamentary secretary to V Srinivas Prasad, who was the Revenue Minister in Siddaramaiah’s cabinet. Srinivas Prasad defected to the BJP and it is well known that Madhwaraj is extremely close to Prasad. The BJP wants to get candidates who can win and Madhwaraj’s popularity makes him a desirable candidate,” a BJP functionary said.



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