Old faces put ticket ahead of ideology, party loyalty

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BANGALORE: Aya Rams and Gaya Rams are not new to Indian politics. Party-hopping to get a better share of the electoral spoils has been a standard practice. However, this election season, Karnataka is seeing a blatant switch of party loyalties by very senior leaders for a single inducement: a ticket.

Congress lifer and multi-term Union minister CK Jaffer Sharief, former ministers PGR Sindhia and Kumar Bangarappa are contemplating deserting their parties even as former IPS officer and ex-MP HT Sangliana has baulked at the idea, at the very last minute. The JD(S) had plans to field him from Bangalore Central, but following talks with the Congress high command, he has decided to stay back. “I had offers from the JD(S) and All India Trinamool Congress who were waiting to give me a red carpet welcome in West Bengal. Though I’m disappointed that no Christian was given a ticket by the Congress in Karnataka, I’m not quitting,” he said.

Those about to abandon their parties, like Sindhia of the JD(S), admit it does impact their credibility. But the dilemma is, it’s now or never. “My well-wishers wanted me to contest from Bidar or Bangalore Rural and also join either the BJP, Congress or AAP. I am 64 years old and options are limited. Since I’m one of the architects of the Janata Parivar, I want to stay till the polls are over. Let me see, if something emerges, I may..” he trailed off.

According to Chandan Gowda of Azim Premji University, “Individuals must be free to change parties if their ideological convictions change. However, when many politicians move across parties at the time of elections, politics gets reduced to opportunism. When they are seen as being interested merely in power and not in larger ideals, the voters become cynical. And the easy movement of leaders across parties can create an impression that all parties are the same. It is dangerous if voters cease to take differences in party ideologies seriously. Lastly, easy party-hopping embitters loyal grassroots party workers who have to work with entrants from rival parties whom they had previously opposed.”

So far, the JD(S) has bagged former KJP man V Dhananjaya Kumar and given him the Udupi-Chikmagalur ticket and Congressman Mahima Patel was poached for Davanagere constituency.

The Congress’ big catch so far has been Samajwadi Party MLA CP Yogeshwar, a former Congressman who joined the BJP before moving to the SP. Kannada Development Authority chairman Mukhyamantri Chandru, who was the only person to continue as the chief of a statutory body after the Congress came to power, joined the party on Saturday. He came into the political limelight as a member of the BJP, which he quit in 2013.

Even as there is speculation of miffed BJP MP D B Chandre Gowda leaving the party, he denied it saying: “There is no such proposal before me.” For the BJP, the return of Yeddyurappa and BSR (Congress) founder B Sriramulu was a damage control exercise with an eye on the critical Lingayat and backward class vote in northern Karnataka.

If former CM BS Yeddyurappa is the recent example of a leader quitting a party, starting a new one which damages the electoral prospects of his former party (30 constituencies in 2013 assembly elections), and now retracing his steps to the parent outfit, his predecessor from the same district S Bangarappa was the ultimate party-hopper. He tried out all parties, including heading the nascent Samajwadi Party, besides starting his own outfits, which turned out to be spoilers for the Congress in elections.

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