Bengaluru: It was reportedly a phone call to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to congratulate him on rolling out demonetisation that set the stage for former minister S M Krishna to quit the Congress. The call was followed by a chat with BJP national president Amit Shah.
Krishna, a former external affairs minister and chief minister, has been expressing admiration for Modi for the past few months. In July 2016, Krishna commended Modi for his overseas trips to strengthen bilateral relationships and his efforts to minimise money power in elections.
This was said to be the cue for BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa, who is trying to get Krishna to join BJP. The party has a few Vokkaliga leaders, including D V Sadananda Gowda, R Ashoka, Shobha Karandlaje and C T Ravi, but BJP is still weak in the vokkaliga-dominated districts of Bengaluru rural, Mandya, Hassan and Chikkamagaluru. It will add an emotional connection in his home district for Yeddyurappa, who is from Bookanakere in Mandya, if he gets Krishna on board.
According to BJP sources, Krishna would be a prize catch. If he joins BJP, it would help the party temper its image of being a lingayat group.
Talks are on to rope in actor and Congress MLA from Mandya M H Ambareesh, who is upset that he was dropped from the cabinet in June 2016, and JD(S) legislator N Cheluvaraswamy from Nagamangala also in Mandya district. “There will be a space in the old Mysuru region for vokkaliga representation, if these legislators quit their parties, which the BJP will want to cash in on,” a source said.
Ambareesh is said to be planning to quit his assembly membership later in the year to avert a bypoll, which can happen if the gap between a byelection and the general polls is six months or less.
BJP aims to win 150 of the 224 assembly seats in 2018, and 12 of the 27 assembly constituencies in Bangalore Urban district. “Here Krishna’s image as a chief minister who put Bengaluru on the global map will help us,” a source said.