M. A. Siraj
Having wrapped up their due share of the seven Legislative Council seats in Karnataka, the three principal political parties in the State are sitting pretty. All seven are likely to emerge victorious unopposed on June 29 when the voting is due. With only two independents having filed nominations, which are likely to be rejected (as they have not been signed by any sitting MLAs), voting may not be necessary.
The BJP, Congress and the Janata Dal Secular (JDS) have 117, 68 and 34 MLAs respectively in the 224-member Assembly. The BJP has given ticket to four, Congress two and the JDS one. With each of them requiring a minimum of 29 votes, they are likely to sail comfortably.
However, senior leader A. H. Vishwanath has emerged as the lone former MLA who resigned his Assembly seat last July with 16 others at the initiation of the BJP but failed to get elected during the by-elections held on December 5, 2019. He was even denied a ticket for the Council by the BJP which he joined with others who had revolted against the Congress and the Janata Dal Secular (JDS) to help BJP form the Government in the State.
Vishwanath’s plight is unenviable. He is a senior leader of Kuruba community who has been in all the three political parties. He began his career with the Congress and represented it in the Assembly thrice and even got elected for the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-14) from Mysore seat. His rivalry within the Party with former chief minister Siddramiah, the tallest among the Kuruba leaders in the State, cost him dearly. Siddramiah wanted him nowhere near the power centres. Frustrated, he quit Congress to join the JDS and was even appointed its working President. But he had a tiff with the then Chief Minister H. D. Kumaraswamy, revolted against his leadership and played a key role in the downfall of his coalition government in alliance with the Congress. Though he was close to Mr. Yeddiyurappa, the latter could not prevail upon the BJP’s central leadership to give him a ticket for the Council. With hopes of him getting elected or nominated dashed, Vishwanath is politically adrift.
Last ditch attempt
He has announced his plan to stick with the BJP. He may perhaps make a last ditch attempt to get into the Council through nomination by the Governor as a member. The 75-member Upper House of Karnataka has 11 seats for which Governor can nominate members from among academicians, artistes, professionals and such other categories. Five of these seats are due to fall vacant. Vishwanath has brandished seven books he has written and published so far to claim a nomination for one such seat. Yeddiyurappa is all likely to help him in the cause as he is the lone defector “who has failed to reach the shore”. Yet his ministerial aspirations may remain unfulfilled. The Supreme Court had while disqualifying the defectors last year had said that those who quit their parties and joined other parties, should contest election and win them to be appointed ministers. A nominated category MLC will clearly be ineligible for the ministerial berth.
Among the seven who are likely to be elected for MLC seats is M. T. B. Nagaraj, who has been nominated by the BJP. Nagaraj was second among the 17 MLAs (besides Vishwanath) who resigned their seats and joined the BJP, but failed to get elected. He is the richest MLA of Karnataka with declared assets worth over Rs. 1,200 crore. His wealth grew by 25% during just six days in August 2019 when the defections happened in the Assembly. Fifty four term deposits worth Rs. 48 crore were made during August 2 and 7, 2019, according to a report in web portal The News Minute. He hails from Hosakote constituency in the outskirts of Bengaluru, an industrial hub. He was defeated by a BJP rebel candidate in the by-elections and has since been claiming a Council seat for himself from the BJP.
The two Congress candidates who are likely to be elected unopposed, are Mr. B. K. Hariprasad and Mr. Naseer Ahmed, a sitting MLC. Hariprasad is an old Congress loyalist who is retiring from the Rajya Sabha on June 25. He was close to Sanjay Gandhi as a Youth Congress activist and has since then sailed with the leadership on its right side without claiming any privileged positons. Naseer Ahmed has been a former minister and owns several garment manufacturing units in Bengaluru. The lone JDS nominee to be elected is Mr. Govindaraju, a surprise choice as nearly a dozen aspirants were in queue.
M.A. Siraj is a senior journalist based in Bengaluru