With its focus shifting to the south, the BJP inducted veteran Congress leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna on Wednesday. Assembly polls in the state are due in 2018. Krishna resigned from the Congress earlier this year, accusing the party leadership of sidelining him. “No party where age and experience is not valued will have a great future. Age has to be valued. Out of sadness and grief, I have taken a decision to leave the Congress and I will stick by it,”’ Krishna had said while announcing his decision to quit. The entry of Krishna, 84, is likely to boost the morale of the BJP, which aims to regain power in the southern state where it lost elections in 2013. It is also expected to help the party influence the Vokkaliga community which Krishna hails from.
Welcoming Krishna into the party at a function at the BJP headquarters, party chief Amit Shah said: “He will increase the BJP’s strength in Karnataka. His entry is also a signal that leaders with a clean image are joining the BJP. We will honour Krishna’s seniority.” Describing Krishna’s decision to join the party as a “timely one”, Shah said, “Krishna is joining the party after witnessing change in the country since Modi became the Prime Minister. Since then, the party’s acceptability across the country has gone up.” Speaking to reporters after joining the BJP, Krishna praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah for “taking the country to great heights.” “I am grateful today that I am joining the party which was led by the great leaders. I see a great India emerging under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and ably supported by the party president Amit Shah,” he said.
Krishna is expected to campaign for the BJP in bypoll elections in Karnataka. BJP sources said Krishna, who served as External Affairs Minister and as Governor of Maharashtra, is a “good political catch” for the party as it prepares for the Assembly polls in Karnataka. “He is a Vokkaliga leader and the BJP does not have a strong support base in the community. Krishna’s entry will be good for us as the Congress and H D Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular) could join hands against the BJP,” said a senior party leader. According to party leaders, Lingayats constitute 17 per cent of Karnataka’s population, followed by Vokkaligas at 12-14 per cent, Dalits at 15 per cent, Muslims at 13 per cent, Kurubas at 9 per cent and SC/STs around 5 per cent.
While the BJP has a hold over Lingayats, JD(S) enjoys support among Vokkaligas. With the Congress enjoying the support of Dalits, OBCs and others, the coming together of the Congress and JD(S) could hit the BJP’s prospects. Listing the “advantages” of Krishna joining the BJP, a party leader added: “As a senior leader, Krishna was part of decision-making in the Congress for decades. He knows each and every one in the Congress, their weaknesses and strengths. He would be an asset for us.” “And this will be a mortal blow for the already-weakened Congress. Many in the party and in the electorate would thinking what’s left in the Congress and why should we stand with it?” the BJP leader said.
The BJP, which won the 2008 polls in Karnataka with the support of the Lingayat community, has been concerned about its lack of influence among the “politically powerful” Vokkaligas. Party leaders also pointed out that Krishna has a clean image. “His entry is in tune with our strategy. Leaders with a clean image like Krishna are joining the BJP while the corrupt continue in the Congress,” BJP general secretary in charge of Karnataka P Muralidhar Rao told The Indian Express.