On Thursday, former Congress leader and Karnataka ex-chief minister S M Krishna shared the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the first time at an election rally in the state after switching sides last March. With the assembly polls eight days away, it was a moment to showcase for the BJP in Bengaluru. But 65 km to the south, in Krishna’s hometown Maddur, the irony was not lost on anyone.
For, barely a week ago, most of Krishna’s supporters and relatives, who quit with him last year, returned to the Congress claiming that they had been ignored by the BJP leadership. Also gone was the Maddur taluk BJP president Lakshman Kumar — and the first office that the BJP opened in the region. Follow Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018 LIVE UPDATES here
Denied a ticket, Kumar, from whose office the campaign was being run, quit the party on April 28, leaving BJP candidate Satish in the lurch. Kumar’s office was also stripped of all BJP symbols, including flags and posters and a giant board bearing pictures of chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa and Satish. The only political symbol on the building now is a Congress flag. Satish, meanwhile, has found a new office in a residential colony nearby.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Krishna’s nephew Gurucharan, who had quit the Congress with his uncle last year, said, “My supporters and I had decided to remain neutral, but Krishna Gets Pride of Place With PM, But Alone At Home we joined the Congress again last week. After we quit the Congress, nobody approached us at the state or local level. We waited till the end but to no avail.”
According to Gurucharan, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah “personally asked” him to rejoin the Congress. “When he called, I decided I must. Here, our fight is with the JD(S) and I thought I could serve the people better and maintain our identity,” he said.
While his family has moved back to the Congress, sources said Krishna would remain in the BJP and that his presence at Modi’s rally was a signal.
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Krishna was brought into the BJP fold to boost its image amid the powerful Vokkaliga community in south Karnataka — a region where the BJP is yet to make inroads.
Sources said Krishna, Karnataka CM between 1999 and 2004, later Governor of Maharashtra and then Minister of External Affairs in the UPA-II government, could have helped the party’s image. However, apart from attending a few rallies, Krishna has not participated in the BJP’s election campaign.
BJP’s Maddur chief Kumar, too, cited lack of communication from his party. “The BJP was non-existent in this region and I built most of the organisation. I was promised a ticket, but suddenly, they gave it to someone else. I conveyed my anger to the BJP but nobody even wanted to talk about it, so I moved to the Congress,” he said.
BJP state general secretary N Ravikumar confirmed the U-turn in Maddur. “There were some problems, so some people have quit,” he said.