In a significant development, former ministers Pramod Madhwaraj, Varthur Prakash and ex-lawmaker K S Manjunath Gowda among other Congress and JD(S) leaders joined the BJP on Saturday.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and BJP state president Nalin Kumar Kateel onboarded these leaders in an operation that was in the works for several months.
Former MLC Sandesh Nagaraj, former Rajya Sabha member K B Krishnamurthy, former minister S D Jayaram’s son Ashok Jayaram and former IRS officer Lakshmi Ashwin Gowda also joined the BJP.
These inductions are expected to help the BJP make inroads into Mandya, Kolar and Mysuru where the Congress and JD(S) have been the traditional rivals.
Madhwaraj, who served as a minister in the Siddaramaiah-led government, joined the BJP soon after tendering his resignation to the Congress. He lost the 2018 Assembly election from Udupi, unsuccessfully contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls on a JD(S) ticket from the Udupi-Chikmagalur seat and returned to the Congress.
In his resignation letter addressed to Karnataka Congress president D K Shivakumar, Madhwaraj stated that he faced “political suffocation” while lamenting that his grievances were not addressed.
Prakash, also a former minister, represented the Kolar constituency twice as an independent. Known to be an influential Kuruba leader, Prakash was seen as an aide of Congress leader Siddaramaiah, who also belongs to the same community.
The other BJP inductees are Krishnamurthy, a former AICC secretary, and Manjunath Gowda of the JD(S) who represented the Malur constituency. Also, former JD(S) MLC Sandesh Nagaraj from Mysuru joined the saffron party.
Lakshmi joined the BJP after the JD(S) left her in the cold by denying her the Mandya Lok Sabha bypoll ticket in 2018.
Speaking at the induction, Bommai said many more leaders would join the BJP in the run-up to the 2023 Assembly polls. “The new trend is pro-BJP, especially in areas where the party was a little weak,” Bommai told reporters. “Such changes give the party a chance to register maiden victories in several constituencies,” he added.
That the BJP should look at onboarding leaders from other parties is a directive Union Home Minister Amit Shah has given the party’s state unit. Shah has asked BJP leaders to focus on the Vokkaliga-dominated Old Mysuru belt, where the party has been traditionally weak.