Karnataka election

New legislator R Shankar’s ever shifting loyalty adds a comic subplot to Karnataka’s political drama

The lone MLA from the Karnataka Praja Janata Paksha party has already flitted at least five times between the BJP and the Congress-JD(S) coalition.

Where is R Shankar now? It is a question that everyone watching the unfolding political drama in Karnataka has been asking over the last two days. Shankar is a newly elected MLA and his support to either the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition could determine which of them gets to rule the state. Shankar has kept everyone guessing by appearing to switch his allegiance every few hours since Tuesday.

Although BS Yeddyurappa of the BJP was sworn in as the chief minister on Thursday morning, he must prove his majority in the Assembly in the coming days. His party has 104 legislators as against the coalition’s 117. Since the BJP requires the support of at least nine more MLAs to get the majority, potential supporters such as Shankar have been catapulted into the spotlight.

Shankar is the lone MLA from the Karnataka Praja Janata Paksha, a regional party launched in 2016. He defeated the Congress heavyweight and outgoing Assembly speaker KB Koliwad in Rannibennur. Other than Shankar, there is only one independent MLA. So, for the BJP to be able to prove its majority, it must lure away MLAs from the rival alliance. This, political analysts and the opposition allege, would necessitate horse trading.

In Karnataka’s fast-changing political scene, nothing has changed faster over the last two days than Shankar’s show of support. He met Yeddyurappa on Tuesday night and accompanied BJP MLAs to Governor Vajubhai Vala’s house the next morning to demand that they be allowed to form the government. By the evening, he was reported to have joined the Congress-JD(S) coalition. A few hours later, India Today placed him at the BJP’s office in Bengaluru. On Thursday morning, he was seen protesting with Congress legislators at the Assembly. Shankar’s shifting loyalty was, of course, documented on social media.

It is anybody’s guess where Shankar would finally land. He is said to have a cordial relationship with senior BJP leader KS Eswarappa. In fact, Eswarappa told the media on Wednesday that even if Shankar had gone to the Congress he would come back to the BJP. It is possible the legislator, who is currently much in demand, is making the most of the unexpected attention even if it earns him monikers such as “rotating” and “pendulum”.

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