Updated: June 2, 2022 7:11:41 am
Though the BJP, the Congress, and the Janata Dal (Secular) have filed nominations for the fourth Rajya Sabha seat available from Karnataka, none of the parties has clear numbers to win it, and the state Congress’s decision to not ally with the JD(S) has added a twist in the plot for the June 10 election and is expected to favour the BJP. Congress has accused the JD(S) of being the BJP’s ally and of being opposed to fielding Muslim candidates despite claims of espousing the causes of minority communities.
In a field where a candidate requires a minimum of 45 votes (from a total of 224 MLAs), the Congress, which has only 70 MLAs, has fielded sitting MP Jairam Ramesh and Mansoor Ali Khan, the son of former Rajya Sabha MP K Rahman Khan. The BJP, with 121 MLAs, has fielded Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Kannada film actor Jaggesh from the dominant Vokkaliga caste, which is perceived as being allied to the JD(S), as its primary candidates. The ruling party has chosen Lahar Singh Siroya, who is a close associate of former Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, as its third candidate.
The JD(S), which has 32 MLAs, has fielded a wealthy real estate businessman D Kupendra Reddy who was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2014 with the party’s support.
The fate of the fourth seat is now dependent on cross-voting by MLAs from the three parties or tacit agreements between two of the parties for second-preference votes. The presence of candidates from the Congress, the JD(S), and the BJP is now widely expected to help the third BJP candidate win on account of a large number of second-preference votes available to the ruling party after the allocation of 45 primary votes for its two main candidates.
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On Monday, the Congress was the first to field a candidate for the fourth seat even as Kupendra Reddy held talks with its state chief D K Shivakumar and other leaders to seek the party’s support. The Congress has only 25 votes to spare for the fourth seat, compared to the 32 of the JD(S) and the BJP’s 31.
“The Congress decided to field its own candidate in order to protect its spare votes and prevent them from being taken by the JD(S) or the BJP. The JD(S), which claims to be pro-Muslim, will also be exposed if it allies with the BJP and does not support a minority candidate. With elections approaching, this strategy to expose the JD(S) was considered important by the party leadership,” said a state Congress functionary.
The Congress, which earlier backed the candidature of former prime minister and JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda in the 2020 Rajya Sabha polls, is hoping the JD(S) will reciprocate the support this time around. The Opposition party’s decision to field a candidate despite not having the numbers has not gone down well with its former ally. A miffed H D Kumaraswamy, JD(S) leader and Deve Gowda’s son, had travelled to Singapore ahead of the polls, said sources in the party.
“If they (Congress) really wanted to support a minority candidate, they should have made Mansoor Khan their primary candidate. Why didn’t they do it? Is Jairam Ramesh more important for them or Mansoor Khan? Or is the BJP’s third candidate more important?” Kumaraswamy, a former CM, said in a social media post.
Kumaraswamy’s brother H D Revanna and the JD(S) state president C M Ibrahim also questioned the Congress’s move to field its own candidate amid talks about supporting a JD(S) nominee. “Our leader Deve Gowda had spoken to Sonia Gandhi, and later to K. C Venugopal. They did not seek our support but we sought their support. They suddenly filed the nomination of a second candidate. They do not have the numbers and Siddaramaiah has stated that they will not seek JD(S) support,” Revanna, a former minister, said. “In order to help a regional party, the Congress should support us.”
Ibrahim said the state Congress did not inform the JD(S) about fielding a candidate. “Should those who have 18 votes (Congress) support those with 32 votes (JD-S) or should those who have 32 votes support those with 18 votes? When the time comes we will expose who is communal and who is secular. They (Congress) are of the view that it is okay for a minority candidate to lose and for the BJP to win,” Ibrahim said. The JD(S) chief added that there was still time to strike a deal to ensure a win for his party.
A Congress leader said, “The JD(S) always fields minority candidates against us in the polls to help the BJP. They are now calling for secular forces to unite. This is a strategy to expose the JD(S).”
According to state legislature officials, the BJP candidate stands the best chance of winning the fourth seat in the event of three candidates remaining in the fray on June 10 since every extra vote won by a winning BJP candidate will be transferred to their second-preference candidates. “If cross-voting happens, it could be unpredictable,” said an official.
The JD(S) will also have to work hard to keep its flock of 32 together and prevent a situation as in 2016 when eight of its 40 legislators voted for a Congress candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls, leading to the defeat of JD(S) candidate B M Farook. The MLAs were later suspended and many joined the Congress.
On Tuesday, ahead of filing his nomination, Lahar Singh expressed confidence that the BJP would win the fourth seat. The BJP is keen to improve its numbers in the Upper House of Parliament ahead of the presidential election in July where the electoral college margins with the Opposition are considered to be quite narrow.
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