Karnataka shock: 14 of BJP vote Mukherjee

Karnataka shock: 14 of BJP vote Mukherjee

Karnataka threw up the biggest surprise in the Presidential election, with the faction-ridden ruling BJP in the state suffering humiliation with around 14 of its members cross-voting in favour of UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee.

Mukherjee should have got the support of 103 MLAs—71 of Congress, 26 of JD(S) and six independents—but 117 voted for him, with National Democratic Alliance (NDA) nominee P A Sangma getting 103. Three votes were declared invalid.
The BJP has 119 members in the 224-member Assembly, with one seat vacant. One of the seven independents also supports the ruling party.

“The party is taking this matter very seriously. The Central leadership has asked the Karnataka BJP unit to form a committee to probe this cross-voting by our MLAs. Once we get the committee's report we will take appropriate action,” BJP general secretary in-charge of the state Dharmendra Pradhan told a news agency.

Senior BJP leader LK Advani's aide Sudhendra Kulkarni acknowledged that the problem in Karnataka is far from over despite three chief ministers were changed in two years.

Embarrassment apart, the cross-voting by BJP legislators in the presidential elections has come at a time when the crucial finance bill will be taken up for consideration during the on-going budget session of the legislature here.

If the same voting pattern is repeated on the floor of the Assembly during the passage of the budget, it would mean defeat of the finance bill and subsequent fall of the state government as it would be reduced to a minority. The ruling party needs at least 112 votes to be in majority.

None of the top state BJP leaders were available for comments. At least four legislators, including three BJP legislators, had made it clear after exercising their franchise on July 19 that they had voted for Mukherjee. The three—Suresh Babu, B Nagendra and G Somashekar Reddy—have identified themselves with independent MLA B Sriramulu despite being in the BJP.

While that was expected, what has shocked the BJP leadership is that 10 more BJP legislators cross-voted. While there is no way of knowing their identity as voting was through a secret ballot, the ruling party suspects that the 10 were MLAs disgruntled at not getting berths in the Jagdish Shettar ministry.

Around 20 legislators had grouped together, with former minister G Karanukara Reddy leading them them. The group had demanded that the “tainted ministers” in the Shettar cabinet be dropped.

Five to six MLAs, led by Balachandra Jarkiholi, too had openly expressed its displeasure at not getting plum portfolios.

Party sources view the cross voting as a warning to the leadership from the disgruntled elements. Shettar will have his fingers crossed, hoping that they would not vote in a similar way when the finance bill is taken up for passage.

The episode has also brought into focus the indiscipline in the party. As many as 12 BJP legislators cross-voted during the recent Legislative Council from the Assembly. When Mukherjee announced his candidature, former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa had said the UPA candidate was the “suitable man” for the post of President, qualifying his quip with:  As an individual I can support but as a partyman how can I support (Mukherjee)”. The BJP legislature party (BJPLP) was convened to discuss the presidential election.

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