sr srinivas
JDS MLA from the Gubbi Assembly seat in Tumkur district, SR Srinivas, was inducted in the presence of top leaders Siddaramiah (former chief minister) and DK Shivakumar (KPCC president), on March 30. Image: Twitter

Karnataka elections: Cong eyes Vokkaliga MLAs to bolster its Old Mysuru tally

With Karnataka getting ready to vote on May 10, both the ruling BJP and Opposition Congress are trying to strengthen the Old Mysuru region, mainly eyeing the Vokkaliga community.

However, it’s the Congress which is going all out, wooing sitting JDS MLAs in the region with a plan to field them in Vokkaliga-dominated constituencies. Of course, JDS will be the worst hit by Congress’ aggressive push, but even BJP is caught on the backfoot.

Gubbi boost for Congress

As a start, JDS MLA from the Gubbi Assembly seat in Tumkur district, SR Srinivas, was inducted in the presence of top leaders Siddaramiah (former chief minister) and DK Shivakumar (KPCC president). A four-time MLA from Gubbi, Srinivas emerged victorious once as an Independent candidate and thrice as JDS candidate.

Buzz is that the Congress is also in touch with ministers, who switched loyalty to the BJP during ‘Operation Lotus’, including Gopalaiah and Narayana Gowda. Incidentally, Gowda has recently expressed his wish to join Congress. It is learnt that DK Shivakumar already had a round of discussions with BJP minister Gopalaiah.

Also read: Karnataka polls: Unsure of Hindutva sentiments, BJP on a statue-building spree

DK Shivakumar said the induction of Srinivas would not only strengthen the party in Tumkur district but also in the Old Mysuru region. Tumkur district has 8 constituencies, of which 4 are with BJP, 3 with JDS and one with Congress.

Though sources said the Congress is trying to break away JDS MLAs, Siddaramaiah maintained that his party is not trying to create fissures in the JDS. He said Srinivas had not done anything to betray the JDS and instead they have forced him out of the party. “Everyone knows the JDS functions as per the wishes of Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy and the decision taken by their family is final. Anyone who freely expresses his opinion can’t belong to the party. It happened to me and the same happened to Srinivas,” he said.

Many more in queue

Insiders say Srinivas is not alone. JDS MLA from Arasikere, Shivalinge Gowda, has also expressed his intention to resign in the next few days. Satyananda, who is a close friend of former CM SM Krishna, again a Vokkaliga leader from Mandya, also joined the Congress. “Many BJP leaders will join the Congress in the coming days. Their names will be revealed soon,” said Shivakumar.

The Congress is also in touch with the JDS MLA from Arakalagod in Hassan, AT Ramaswamy. He is a Vokkaliga leader known for his anti-corruption activities. Kolar MLA K Srinivas Gowda has also joined the Congress. These developments show that the party’s poll prospects are looking up in the region where JDS often had an upper hand in the past.

Similarly, BJP MLC Puttanna joined the Congress recently. Once the right-hand of JDS leader HD Kumaraswamy, he had joined the BJP before switching loyalty to the Congress recently. He is also a Vokkaliga leader and contesting this time from Rajajingar in Bengaluru.

Shivakumar and his brother DK Suresh, strong leaders in the Old Mysuru region, are trying to convince Vokkaliga voters with the message “give a chance to DKS” to serve the community. On the other hand, Siddaramaiah, a strong Ahinda leader, also shares a “good rapport” with Vokkaliga leaders from his JDS days. Thus the Congress is trying to cover all districts, including Ramanagar, Mandya, Hassan, Tumkur, Mysuru and Bengaluru.

A senior leader said the Congress is playing safe by inducting the strong Vokkaliga faces into the party fold and allotting tickets to them from the constituencies they are already representing. Sources said both Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar are behind this strategy and giving the message to the BJP, which is trying to spread its Vokkaliga base in the Old Mysuru region through its leaders Dr CN Aswhatha Narayana, R Ashok and Dr K Sudhakar.

Also read: Karnataka polls: Will be back as CM again, says Bommai

It is learnt the Congress is also trying to rope in several Lingayat leaders, who are “crucial” for the BJP, including BS Yediyurappa’s close aide Mohan Nimbikai, UB Banakar and Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai’s close aide Manjunath Kunnur.

BJP playing quota card

The ruling BJP too is wooing Vokkaligas with moves like setting up a statue of Vokkaliga icon Kempe Gowda and giving an additional reservation of 2 per cent to the community under the 2C category to make it 6 per cent. The BJP is also hoping that a spree of development work inaugurations by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visits to the poll-bound state this year will help them in the region.

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