SM Krishna's second coming: It's advantage BJP as the veteran Karnataka leader heads to the fold

Shubham Ghosh
SM Krishna's second coming: It's advantage BJP as the veteran Karnataka leader heads to the fold

Karnataka's former chief minister SM Krishna, who quit the Congress in January, was supposed to join the BJP on Wednesday (March 15) but the occasion was postponed owing to the death of his sister.

The octogenarian leader returned from New Delhi to Bengaluru after receiving the news and as per reports, Krishna could join the BJP next week.

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Krishna's quitting the Congress and preparing to join the BJP a year ahead of the Karnataka Assembly election is crucial. The leader, who has served in several top positions under the Congress rule at the Centre, including that of the external affairs minister, had remarked at the time of quitting the Grand-Old Party that it needed managers and not mass leaders.

The disappointment was clear. Krishna was unceremoniously dropped as the external affairs minister in the previous UPA government in 2012 and was given little significance by the Congress' top brass, despite his repeated complaints about the current state leadership under Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

Krishna is too old but his political significance is relevant for BJP

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Krishna's joining the BJP may not seem consistent with the current BJP leadership's 'focus on youth' mantra but it has a greater significance in terms of political benefits for the BJP in the southern state, which has remained the Congress' last big state in the country. 

For the BJP, it's time to sit back and watch the same drama that had unfolded in its camp ahead of the 2013 Assembly election in Karnataka. That year, the saffron camp was in a disarray over managing BS Yeddyurappa, the party's first chief minister in Karnataka who had to quit after facing resistance inside the party and eventually floated his own party, Karnataka Janatha Paksha, to facilitate the downfall of the BJP. He returned to the BJP just ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and was made the chief of the Karnataka BJP in 2016.

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This time, it is the ruling Congress which is undergoing the same experience. Ahead of Krishna's departure, senior Dalit leader Srinivasa Prasad also quit the Congress after being dropped from the cabinet and joined the BJP. And if rumours are true, disgruntled actor-politician Ambareesh could also leave the Congress. Ambareesh did not have a pleasant time at a rally during the last election where he was reportedly insulted in the presence of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi.

Krishna will boost BJP's presence in South Karnataka region

It is a known fact that Ambareesh and Krishna don't see eye to eye but if the BJP leadership succeeds in doing what Rahul Gandhi could not. i.e., bridge the rift between various state leaders and Krishna, then it will really make a big gain in the Old Mysuru region from where leaders like Krishna, Prasad and Ambareesh hail. It will boost the BJP's strength in the region, putting the Congress under a stiff challenge.

Although aged 84, Krishna is still a big name in Karnataka's politics and his presence in the BJP would make it difficult for the Congress to find a match. The Congress' topmost face to show in the election next year is Chief Minister Siddaramaiah but given the general disappointment against him in the party, where many still see him as an 'import from the JD(S)', odds are against him for the next battle. Siddaramaiah also belongs to the same region but the resurgent JD(S), a Vokkaliga-dominant party, and the BJP boosted by the Vokkaliga man Krishna, will not give him an easy run this time.

The Krishna episode will turn the media focus away from BJP's other internal problems

The focus on the aged leader will also help the BJP put away all the focus from its own internal issues. Yeddyurappa doesn't get along with former deputy chief minister KS Eshwarappa and the saffron party would not want a rerun of the 2013 show. The Krishna factor will keep the attention away from the cold war within the BJP.

The BJP will also gain in the state by offering Krishna a high post at Centre

Krishna's suave avatar could also see the BJP offering him a plump post at the Centre. The party's most-known face from Karnataka – BS Yeddyurappa – is a Lingayat strongman but is too regional. Offering Krishna a respected position in New Delhi could see the BJP winning blessings from the voters of the state by means of bridging the psychological gap. Krishna has played an important role to promote Bengaluru as India's IT capital during his chief ministership in the late 1990s to mid-2000s. The Congress did not bother to utilise his image while taking on the tech-savvy BJP in the state.

Certain quarters also opine that Krishna's pro-BJP stand has also to do with his family's business interests. Even if that is a reason, it's not likely to hold much water. If the Congress finds engaging in factionalism more important than honouring its veterans who have served it over several decades, then there is bound to be a repercussion.  

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