Parties woo biggies ahead of big battle

It  may gain momentum after Nanjangud bypolls | JD(S) eyeing 20-25 seats in North Karnataka | Congress looking for strong Veerashaiva leaders.

Published: 27th November 2016 03:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th November 2016 03:10 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BELAGAVI: Much before the battle lines are drawn, the Big 3 — Congress, BJP and JD(S) — have begun wooing senior leaders in other parties who are known to have vast support bases, with an eye on the 2018 Assembly election. Many leaders are making good use of their spare time holding discussions even as the winter session of the legislature is under way in Belagavi.

The trigger for the wooing game seems to be the fallout of the mid-term reshuffle of the Siddaramaiah cabinet when some heavyweights were dropped to make way for fresh faces. While Qamarul Islam has been very vocal about being dropped ‘unceremoniously’,  V Srinivasa Prasad quit the party in a huff and has been critical of Siddaramaiah ever since.

Congress, which realised that it could not make a big difference in the BBMP, zilla and taluk panchayat polls, and also in elections to Legislative Council and bypolls, has started reworking its strategy for the assembly election.

Reinvigorated after getting a clean chit in corruption cases, BJP’s Lingayat strongman B S Yeddyurappa is now wooing dalit strongman Srinivasa Prasad and a few other disgruntled MLAs. This has become a matter of concern for Congress.

Not to be left behind, JD(S) state president H D Kumaraswamy has declared that his party will come to power in 2018. He has even set up base in Hubballi to expand the party base in north Karnataka region. The JD(S) made a bold move and had suspended five rebels, including Kumaraswamy’s one-time close friend Zameer Ahmed, for not toeing the party line during the Council elections.

Sources said JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda, through his blue-eyed boy and former Union Minister C M Ibrahim, has tried to woo leaders like Satish Jarkiholi (Congress), Umesh Katti (BJP) and others in the hope that if the party manages to win 25 to 30 seats in North Karnataka, forcing a fractured mandate, JD(S) would be the natural choice for a coalition partner in the government.

The Congress is keenly following the development in the opposition parties and has spread the net to catch some big fish.

The Congress leadership, focusing on winning back the constituencies it lost by thin margins in 2013, has sent feelers to a few prominent leaders like former minister V Somanna (now in BJP). The party feels that Somanna’s re-entry will do it good by bringing some percentage of Veerashaiva votes that are largely in Yeddyurappa’s kitty.

KPCC president G Parameshwara, tipped to lead the party till the assembly polls, has sent feelers to winnable and potential leaders. When contacted , Parameshwara refused to give details on his talks with leaders of other political parties. “As a political party, we hold talks with many senior and potential leaders,”  was all he said. Maintaining that it was courtsey call by Somanna, an old friend, he admitted that the entry of a few leaders would boost the image of the party.

Sources revealed that a few leaders who are upset with the infighting and groupism in BJP are knocking on the doors of other parties. “We will stay back in BJP if the leaders bury their differences and stand united. Any further squabbling will only cause damage to the party and affect the prospects of the candidates, said an MLA pleading anonymity.

The situation is not confined to BJP. Many senior legislators and ministerial aspirants, unhappy with the Congress leadership in the state, are said to be open to crossing over but are playing their cards close to the chest.

A few senior leaders feel that the polarisation could become sharper after Ibrahim and team join JD(S) and after the Nanjangud bypolls, to be held in a couple of months.

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