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BJP Starts 'Target Kharge' Gameplan, Poaches Congress Leaders From His Home Turf

Kharge is one of the strongest leaders in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region, which is also considered a Congress bastion and has won the assembly election from here a record nine times and the Lok Sabha election twice.

Deepa Balakrishnan | CNN-News18deepab18

Updated:March 22, 2019, 11:07 PM IST
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BJP Starts 'Target Kharge' Gameplan, Poaches Congress Leaders From His Home Turf
BS Yeddyurappa.
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Bengaluru: The Bharatiya Janata Party is plotting the downfall of senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge by poaching several Congress leaders from his district weeks ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Kharge is one of the strongest leaders in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region, which is also considered a Congress bastion and has won the Assembly election from here a record nine times and the Lok Sabha election twice. In the 16th Lok Sabha, he was the Congress high command's choice to be the Leader of Opposition.

The BJP is now trying to strike at this winning run by bringing many influential Congress leaders from the district into its fold.

The BJP's candidate against him is Umesh Jadhav, who was the Congress MLA from Chincholi until last month. He had joined the BJP during 'Operation Kamala,' the exercise adopted by the saffron party to get MLAs to defect to shore up its tally in the Karnataka Assembly.

In return, the MLAs are usually promised plum positions or ministerial berths.

For Gulbarga, the BJP is targeting many former MLAs of the Congress to join it in its campaign against Kharge.

On Friday, former Minister AB Maalaka Raddi joined the BJP, saying he was disgruntled with the Congress and was enamoured by PM Narendra Modi's policies on many issues like foreign relations.

Over the last few months, other ex-MLAs like Mallikayya Guttedar and Baburao Chinchansoor have also joined the BJP from Gulbarga. Both were present at Friday's event, talking of a joint campaign.

State BJP Chief BS Yeddyurappa said they would be starting their campaign in two-three days.

"One thing I will tell you – people are not happy about Mallkarjun Kharge ji – I have great respect for him, but this time we have a very good candidate. 101 per cent our candidate is winning – and then Malaka Raddi and other important leaders have joined: That will strengthen us," Yeddyurappa told News18.

Interestingly, the Congress had filed a petition before the Assembly Speaker last month against Jadhav and a few others, seeking their disqualification as they failed to attend the Legislature Party meetings despite repeated notices and warnings.

But even if Jadhav is disqualified from the Assembly, that would not be a hindrance as this is a different election to a different House, Yeddyurappa said.

"We have consulted legal experts, there is no problem to contest for parliament elections," he said, adding, "the entire state atmosphere is very good; compared to 2014. In 2019, there will be 10 to 15 per cent more people supporting Modi. That is why I'm saying we will win 300 seats in the entire country, and in Karnataka we will win 20 to 22 seats," the BJP chief said.

His statements come even as the Congress dithers over its candidate selection. The BJP has already announced 21 of 28 candidates from Karnataka, while the Congress is yet to come out with any names.

The Congress is in a pre-poll alliance with the JDS, with which it is running a coalition government in Karnataka.

Raddi, questioned about joining the BJP after 40 years of loyalty to the Congress, said there is a lot of discontent among leaders of Gulbarga because of Kharge.

"Kharge refuses to share political power with his colleagues. He never consults anyone. He takes unilateral decisions, and his attitude as if one of (being the) imperial highness. His mindset is such – it is a feudal approach," he told News18.

Claiming that other leaders from the region are neglected by the Congress, he said even the likes of Sharanbasappa Darshanapur, who is a four-time MLA, was not considered for the council of ministers while Kharge's son was picked.
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