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In a Boost for Karnataka Congress, 7 JDS MLAs to Jump Ship Ahead of 2018 Assembly Election

The seven rebels of the JD (S) who have been at odds with Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy, the party's state president, ever since they cross-voted in favour of the Congress candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections last year.

Deepa Balakrishnan | CNN-News18deepab18

Updated:August 18, 2017, 8:59 AM IST
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In a Boost for Karnataka Congress, 7 JDS MLAs to Jump Ship Ahead of 2018 Assembly Election
(L to R) Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, BJP leader Sadananda Gowda, Opposition Leader in State Assembly Jagadish Shettar and JD(S) State President H D Kumaraswamy. Representative image. Photo: Reuters
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Bengaluru: Seven MLAs from the Janata Dal (Secular), the regional party in Karnataka headed by former prime minister Deve Gowda, are jumping ship to join the Congress ahead of 2018 Assembly elections.

The seven rebels of the JD (S) who have been at odds with Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy, the party's state president, ever since they cross-voted in favour of the Congress candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections last year.

They have, since then, been biding their time to join the Congress.

On Thursday, accompanied by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, they met Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi. They will, however, formally join the Congress only towards the end of the year (likely by December) as they don't want to face by-polls with just a few months to go for the main elections, sources in the Congress say.

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Elections to the Karnataka Assembly are scheduled in April-May 2018, with the current Assembly's five-year term ending by then.

It is expected to be a hotly-contested one, with the Congress trying to fight anti-incumbency and the BJP trying to wrest power that it lost in 2013 after a series of corruption charges.

For the Congress it is crucial as it is the only big state where the party is still in power; for the BJP, it is a test of Modi's popularity ahead of 2019 and also an attempt to re-establish itself in the South where it has zero presence.

For JD(S) which has been hoping to be a king-maker that can play one national party against the other -- something it had done once in 2006 -- the exit of these MLAs is bound to hurt.

Chief-Minister-Siddaramaiah

Almost all of them are winning candidates. Two of them - Zameer Ahmed Khan, and Akhand Srinivasa Murthy - are from Bengaluru city, and the third HC Balakrishna from rural Bengaluru. This is where the Congress has been on the backfoot because of infrastructure woes and the BJP a tad stronger. The JD (S) numbers will thus stand the Congress in good stead.

Chaluvarayaswamy, Bheema Naik, Iqbal Ansari and Ramesh Bandisiddegowda are the other MLAs from varied regions as Bellary and Koppal in the north to Mandya and Mysore in the south -- and boast of captive caste-based vote banks in their constituencies.

An eighth MLA, Gopalaiah from an Assembly constituency in Bengaluru city, who had also gone to Delhi, backed out at the last minute and stayed in the JDS. Of course, with nearly eight months to go for elections, there could be renewed efforts to woo him.

It's quite common for MLAs to shift loyalties ahead of elections, but this time Karnataka politics is seeing quite a bit of churning.

CM Siddaramaiah said in Delhi that there are BJP MLAs too who want to join the Congress but they are waiting for the right time before quitting.

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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