Senior Congress leader and former minister Baburao Chinchansur joined the BJP on Wednesday in what is being viewed as one of the first moves made ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Baburao said that he had decided to make the switch after he was sidelined by the Congress.
He further stated that the Congress had neglected the Koli Kabbaliga community to which he belongs. "It has been 70 years since Independence, but the Koli Kabbaliga community has not been recognised by the Congress party. The BJP has recognised the community and made Ramnath Kovind the President, and also made Niranjan Jyoti a minister if you look at it from our community's perspective. I appreciate Amit Shah and Narendra Modi for these decisions," he said speaking to TNM.
Baburao was formally inducted into the party on Wednesday in the presence of senior BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa and Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Niranjan Jyoti.
Baburao was elected as a Congress leader in 2008 and 2013 from Gurmitkal constituency in Yadgir district. He rose to the position of Textile Minister in former CM Siddaramaiah's cabinet. However, he faced a reversal of fortunes in the 2018 Assembly elections when he was defeated by a margin of nearly 25,000 votes to the JD(S) candidate.
Baburao was, however, dropped from Siddaramaiahâ€™s cabinet in 2016, and was also replaced as district minister-in-charge of Yadgir by Priyank Kharge, son of Mallikarjun Kharge.
Baburao put down the result to infighting within the Congress party. "This particular election, Congress leaders themselves contributed to defeating me because they believed that if I won again, I'll become a minister. So, today I left the Congress and joined the BJP. I want to serve the people of my constituency and uplift our community," he added.
Baburao said that he aims to bring the Koli Kabbaliga community under the Scheduled Tribes category.
Baburaoâ€™s switch could be beneficial to the BJP as it is aiming to strengthen itself in areas where it has historically struggled by roping in popular local leaders.
By bringing Baburao to the fold, BJP is attempting to wrest the Kalaburgi constituency, which covers as many as 8 assembly segments, away from current MP Mallikarjun Kharge. The region has been a Congress stronghold for decades with the BJP last winning from the constituency in 1998.