After ending his 46-year association with the Congress party in February, veteran Congress leader and former external affairs minister SM Krishna is set to join the BJP in New Delhi this week as per all indications.
While the shifting of the 84-year-old Krishna from the ranks of the Congress to the BJP is not expected to dramatically change political equations in Karnataka ahead of the 2018 assembly polls, it is going to cause a perception loss for the Congress party in the state.
Watch Video |Former External Affairs Minister & Ex-Congress Leader SM Krishna Set To Join BJP
Despite not commanding a strong vote base, a veteran Krishna, who has been away from active politics for several years, still enjoys a good standing in his own Vokkaliga community which populates the southern region of Karnataka and among urban voters in places like Bengaluru. By joining the BJP, Krishna is expected to create more interest for the saffron party in the southern districts of Karnataka where it has traditionally lagged behind the Janata Dal (Secular) of Vokkaliga strongman H D Devegowda and his sons and the Congress party in terms of popular support.
Soon after he joins the BJP this week, Krishna is expected to be thrown into the fray to campaign for BJP candidates for bypolls to the state assembly from two south Karnataka constituencies set to be held on April 9. The polls from the Nanjangud and the Gundlupet constituencies in the Mysore region is being pitched by the BJP as a mini-referendum on the governance of the last four years by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in the state. With both constituencies located in territory considered as chief minister Siddaramaiah’s backyard, the BJP is of the view that a defeat of the Congress party in his stronghold would set the tone for the assembly elections to be held in the state in early 2018.
The exit of Krishna is expected to leave the impression that the Congress is anti-Vokkaliga thereby creating divisions on community lines in the grassroot support system for the party in south Karnataka. The Congress over the last four years has in any case created the impression that it supports backward communities, minorities and Dalits more than the two dominant castes in Karnataka – the Lingayats who pre-dominantly populate the northern parts of the state and the Vokkaligas in the south.
The BJP has traditionally been viewed as a party of the Lingayats and has struggled to win large scale support from the Vokkaligas in the south. By inducting a prominent Vokkaliga like Krishna into its fold, the BJP is attempting to change the perception that it is a Lingayat party dominated by Lingayat leaders like B S Yeddyurappa.
“One of the benefits of Krishna joining the BJP is a better perception for the party in south Karnataka. The Congress will suffer a loss of perception. In the end whatever the benefit it will only be a small one compared to the Modi wave which will actually lift the party,” a BJP leader said.