Sixteen of the 17 disqualified Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) legislators in Karnataka on Thursday joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, a day after the Supreme Court allowed them to contest next month’s bye-elections. R Roshan Baig, who was earlier in the Congress, was the only one who did not move to the ruling party.
Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, state BJP chief Nalin Kumar Kateel and National General Secretary in charge of Karnataka P Muralidhar Rao were present when the former MLAs joined the BJP. The 13 disqualified Congress MLAs who joined the saffron party were Pratap Gowda Patil, BC Patil, Shivram Hebbar, ST Somashekar, Byrathi Basavaraj, Anand Singh, N Munirathna, K Sudhakar, MTB Nagaraj, Shrimant Patil, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumatalli and R Shankar. The JD(S) members who joined the party were K Gopalaiah, AH Vishwanath and KC Narayana Gowda.
R Roshan Baig, the former Congress legislator from Shivajinagar, is facing inquiry in the IMA ponzi scam. According to insiders in the BJP, the party leadership expressed reservations about having Baig in the party due to the probe, reported PTI. On Wednesday, the seven-time legislator had said that he will join the BJP along with the others.
The BJP granted tickets for the upcoming Assembly bye-polls to 13 of the sixteen new entrants, according to a press release on the saffron party’s website. Bye-polls to 15 of the 17 Assembly constituencies represented by these disqualified legislators will be held on December 5. The saffron party needs to win at least six seats to remain in power in Karnataka. Of the 15 constituencies, 12 were represented by Congress and three by JD(S).
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court upheld former Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar’s decision to disqualify the MLAs. Hours after the verdict, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Ashwathnarayan CN had said that the 17 disqualified legislators, whose exit led to the collapse of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government in July, would join the BJP.
After the top court’s verdict, the Congress lashed out at the BJP and sought the dismissal of the Yediyurappa government, claiming that the ruling had exposed “the moral bankruptcy of BJP leaders and the disqualified MLAs”.
“Operation Kamala is now a proven act and there is nothing more shameful than this,” said state Congress leader Siddaramaiah. Operation Kamala, or Lotus, is the term used to refer to the BJP’s alleged plan to orchestrate the defections of seven Opposition legislators after the 2008 Karnataka Assembly elections.