The Bharatiya Janata Party’s alleged attempts to engineer the defections of Congress MLAs in Gujarat, and Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party MLCs in Uttar Pradesh, is being watched with deep anxiety by its opponents in Karnataka, Orissa and Tamil Nadu. These parties fear they could be the BJP’s next target.
Since July 27, the Congress has lost six MLAs in Gujarat to the BJP ahead of the August 8 Rajya Sabha elections. The saffron party is fielding Balwantsinh Rajput, former Congress Chief Whip in the Gujarat Assembly, against senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel in the polls to the Upper House. The Congress has moved its remaining 44 MLAs to a luxury resort in Karnataka in the hope of preventing further defections.
On Sunday, Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil alleged that the BJP had tried to buy its MLAs by offering each of them Rs15 crore ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls. “The BJP is hitting below the belt,” said Gohil. “We are fighting to protect democracy. These (Congress) MLAs chose to stand by the party even when they were offered Rs15 crore.”
On Saturday, the Election Commission had asked the BJP-led Gujarat government for a report on the Congress’ defection claims.
The Congress is also feeling the heat in Karnataka.
“In all the states where the BJP is not able to win people’s mandate, they are using such illegal methods to capture power,” said Manicka Tagore, secretary in charge of the Congress in Karnataka. “First it was Goa and Manipur and then Bihar. Their next target will be the states of Odisha, TN (Tamil Nadu) and Karnataka. They know that they are being branded as a North Indian party and so will go to any extent to abuse power.”
Some members of non-BJP parties in states like Odisha and Tamil Nadu, where the saffron party does not have a significant presence, are apprehensive that it may engineer similar defections in their parties.
Though Bhartruhari Mahtab, the parliamentary party leader of the ruling Biju Janata Dal in Odisha said that he did “not think there is even a remote possibility of BJP succeeding in engineering defection in our party”, his party colleague did not share his confidence.
However, his party colleague, who did not want to be identified, said that he was not so sure of the ability of his colleagues to withstand enticement. “There is already enough confusion in so far as the line of our party is concerned,” said the leader. “I am not sure how some of our party leaders would behave if the BJP mounts pressure on them.”
In Tamil Nadu, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Kanimozhi accused the BJP of virtually running the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government, which has been facing internal strife since party chief J Jayalalithaa died in December.
Asked whether the lack of opposition unity is letting the BJP go scot free, she said, “There is a great need for more opposition unity.
In Uttar Pradesh, which the BJP won in a landslide earlier this year, three MLCs – two from the Samajwadi Party and one from the Bahujan Samaj Party – resigned from the Legislative Council on July 29, saying that they will join the BJP.
While Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav blamed the BJP for the resignations, and called it “political corruption of the highest order”, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati alleged that this was caused by the BJP’s “boundless hunger” for power.