July 9, 2019
Congress’s leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh have sparred over it in the Lok Sabha. Chowdhury charged that the BJP has engineered defection in the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition. Denying the charge, Rajnath Singh said the BJP has nothing to do with the political turmoil in Karnataka and blamed Rahul Gandhi for the situation in Karnataka.
Rahul Gandhi began the series of resignations, Rajnath Singh said in the Lok Sabha. But the allegations have been flying thick and fast in Karnataka that the Bharatiya Janata Party is behind the political crisis in the state even as the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) leadership continues to battle to save the HD Kumaraswamy government.
Three instances give credibility to the Congress’s charge of BJP having a role behind Karnataka’s political crisis.
After the 13 MLAs of the Congress and the JD (S) resigned, 10 of them headed to Mumbai, where they stayed in a hotel called Sofitel. They came to Mumbai on a chartered plane belonging to the Jupiter Capital.
BJP Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar is the founder and current chairman of the company. The fact that the MLAs used a plane owned by a company with links to Rajeev Chandrasekhar gave the Congress licence to accuse the BJP directly.
G Parameswara, who has resigned as Karnataka deputy chief minister along with other ministers to accommodate rebels, tagged a media report on Twitter and said, “Traces of BJP’s role in destabilising the government are all over the place. It is disgraceful that the party is attempting to topple a democratically elected government and grab power through the backdoor, when the state is reeling under one of the worst droughts.”
This drew sharp rebuttal from Chandrasekhar, who replied to Parameswara’s tweet saying, “Dear @DrParameshwara – this aircraft is a commercial charter – that has been chartered by many people including your own ministers in the past. So, don’t blame me or an aircraft or @BJP4India for the problems in your crooked corrupt opportunistic alliance.”
Earlier, a PTI report quoted a Jupiter Capital official as saying, “It is a charter operation and the aircraft is chartered regularly by various people.” Clearly, the BJP and Chandrasekhar denied any hand in the Karnataka’s political upheaval. But allegation did not stop here.
In Mumbai, at least two leaders associated with the BJP were seen at or near Sofitel hotel, where the rebel MLAs stayed. The first was Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) Mumbai president Mohit Kamboj, who was spotted the Mumbai hotel on Sunday.
When questioned by reporters covering the development, Kamboj said he had gone to the hotel for spa. “It’s Sunday. I stay nearby so I came here for spanothing to do with the MLAs,” he said. Not many political observers would buy that argument.
Another BJP leader, Prasad Lad, who is an MLC in Maharashtra, was seen at Sofitel. He also cited “personal reasons” for visiting the hotel. Mahendra Singhi, one of the rebel Karnataka Congress MLAs, was seen with Prasad Lad outside the hotel.
Another disgruntled MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi was also reported to have met Prasad Lad outside the hotel.
The Yeddyurappa “hand”
Independent MLA H Nagesh, who had been inducted in the Kumaraswamy ministry last month, yesterday quit the government and submitted his resignation to Governor Vajubhai Vala. He declared his support to the BJP thereafter.
Soon, he left for the Mumbai hotel, where other rebel MLAs were staying. He boarded a flight to Mumbai from HAL Airport in Bengaluru and was seen accompanied by NR Santosh, who has emerged as the central figure in the defection saga.
NR Santosh is BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa’s trusted aide, personal assistant and a relative. He had also been seen with the rebel MLAs of the Congress and JD (S) on Saturday at the Oakwood Hotel in Bengaluru before they submitted their resignations to the Karnataka Assembly Speaker Ramesh Kumar.
Congress cites past
The Congress leaders cite Goa and Arunachal Pradesh to target the BJP accusing it of engineering defection in the ruling coalition using money power. In Goa state polls, the Congress emerged as the single-largest party with 17 seats in the 40-member assembly, but the BJP won over smaller parties to form the government in 2017. The Congress alleged hose trading.
In Arunachal Pradesh, the BJP first formed its government in 2003 when MLAs of Arunachal Congress led by Gegong Apang had defected to it. In 2016, Chief Minister Pema Khandu defected to the BJP along with supporting MLAs. They had first defected to the Congress after having won as the People’s Party of Arunachal Pradesh candidates in 2014. In fact, the BJP won its first state election in Arunachal Pradesh only this year.
The BJP has not denied its party leader’s link with the chartered plane company, presence of its leaders at or outside the Mumbai hotel where rebel MLAs stayed or presence of Yeddyurappa’s close aide around the rebel legislators. Its only denial has been about horse trading in Karnataka.