‘We Are like A Flock of Flamingos’: Ahead of Rajya Sabha Polls, Karnataka Congress MLAs Nesting in Hotels amid ‘Cross-voting’ Buzz – News18

‘We Are like A Flock of Flamingos’: Ahead of Rajya Sabha Polls, Karnataka Congress MLAs Nesting in Hotels amid ‘Cross-voting’ Buzz

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The numbers game is set to begin in Karnataka, with the state witnessing hectic activity in the run-up to the Rajya Sabha elections to be held on Tuesday. Congress MLAs are holed up in a star hotel in Bengaluru, while the Bharatiya Janata Party is pinning its hopes on cross-voting on election day.

Senior Congress leaders have alleged that calls were being made to their MLAs to try and lure them and their votes with money but have yielded no result.

“We are like a flock of flamingos, and we will fly high. We have the numbers, we trust each and every MLA of our party, and we will sail through confidently and easily,” said senior Congress minister Santhosh Lad to News18.

Karnataka politicians across parties, be it the BJP, Janata Dal (Secular), or the Congress, have over the years mastered the art of “resort politics”, seeing the ruling Congress herding all their MLAs to a star hotel in the city. The MLAs will be taken on a bus from the hotel to the Vidhana Soudha on February 27.

“It is not that we do not trust our MLAs. Every Congressman is committed to winning this election as well, just as we are in the assembly polls. We will be in the hotel together as it’s just that it is easier for us to coordinate and go together on the day of the elections,” Lad added.

The Karnataka assembly has 224 members, and to win the seat in their favour, each candidate will have to get 45 first-preference votes. The Congress, which is in power in Karnataka, has 135 MLAs with it, along with the support of three other independent legislators.

A senior Congress minister confirmed that talks to rope in mining baron and Gangavathi MLA Gali Janardhana Reddy have been positive. After a long hiatus away from active politics, Reddy won the seat in the elections last year under his new party Karnataka Rajya Pragathi Paksha. A former BJP minister, Reddy had said in an interview that the BJP had abandoned him and did not stand by him during his hour of need.

According to Congress sources, independent MLAs Darshan Puttanaiah of the Sarvodaya Karnataka Paksha (Melukote), Latha Mallikarjun (Harapanahalli), and KH Puttaswamy Gowda (Gauribidanur) also have agreed to extend their support during the voting.

Karnataka is seeing a contest of five candidates, three from the Congress, one from the Bharatiya Janata Party, and another from the JD(S), which is part of the BJP-led NDA, for four Rajya Sabha seats. The Congress with 134 MLAs (Surpur legislator Venkatappa Naik passed away on Sunday) has fielded party leader and Rahul Gandhi’s close associate Ajay Maken, Syed Naseer Hussain who has been renominated and is seeking another term in the upper house along with GC Chandrashekhar.

The BJP on the other hand with 66 MLAs has fielded Narayana Krishnasa Bhandage, a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). And despite not having the numbers, the BJP-JD(S) combine has once again fielded business magnate Kupendra Reddy.

“It was nothing but mischief on the part of the JD(S)-BJP pair, but Reddy will lose once again,” said a senior Congress leader.

“Congress’s three candidates are in a very solid position, and their victory is guaranteed. This Rajya Sabha election is needless as the party would have won anyway,” said former Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Gowda. “Kupendra Reddy was with me in the Rajya Sabha together. It pains me to see him being exploited last time and this time by his political party [JD(S)] by forcing him to contest when he has no chance of winning.”

Senior leaders in the BJP and JD(S) camp are pinning their hopes on cross-voting as insiders say they have been in touch with a few Congress MLAs. The recent election to the Teachers’ constituency where the Janata Dal (Secular) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combined faced their first election together saw defeat with Congress P Puttanna retaining his hold on the seat.

“The strategy and planning for a state election, Rajya Sabha election, or Lok Sabha election are different. We are going to win big in the Lok Sabha elections and show our might as we join forces with the JD(S). Let’s see what happens in the Rajya Sabha polls,” said a senior BJP leader and former minister.

Deputy chief minister and state Congress chief DK Shivakumar lashed out at JD(S) leader and former Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy, alleging that he was aware that phone calls were made offering money to leaders.

“We know who the calls have been made to, what they have been saying, and how much they have offered. Our MLAs have given us all the information, and we are well aware of what their game plan is,” Shivakumar said a few days ago.

Shivakumar said the opposition fielded a fifth candidate with the intention of cross-voting. “They have some plan in mind. It is for cross-voting. We will get to know on the voting day,” he added.

In turn, it is learnt that the Congress hopes that two BJP leaders who have been sidelined by the party and have even stopped attending party meetings, ST Somashekar and Shivaram Hebbar, cast their vote in favour of the ruling party.

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