Just like the Rajya Sabha seats in Maharashtra were fiercely fought, in Karnataka too, News18 has learnt, there was a strategy in place to ensure not two but three wins for the Bharatiya Janata Party. The strategy team consisted of BJP national general secretary CT Ravi, Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai, and state party president Nalin Kumar Kateel, who chalked out the “perfect” ploy based on winnability.
Ravi said there was no need for any major manoeuvring in Karnataka as the opposition parties themselves paved the way for the BJP’s victory. Finding the perfect winning opportunity with the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) out to pull each other down, the BJP decided to take a gamble and field a third candidate.
“We were sure of winning but it was not the win but the way it is won that makes all the difference. We took the risk of fielding a third candidate as we had 32 votes apart from the votes assigned to Nirmala Sitharaman ji and Jaggesh. Our strategy worked well,” Ravi told News 18.
Of the four Rajya Sabha seats in Karnataka, the BJP won three, with Sitharaman, noted Kannada actor-comedian Jaggesh and Lehar Singh Siroya, a two-term MLC.
While both Sitharaman and Jaggesh had a clear majority, Siroya had only 31 votes as the third candidate at his disposal while the JD(S) had 32 and Congress 25. However, cross-voting gave Siroya the much-needed push and he polled 33 votes that landed him his seat in the Rajya Sabha.
Explaining the choice of candidates, another senior BJP leader told News18 that apart from Sitharaman, Jaggesh was picked to meet the Vokkaliga caste balance. But it was the choice of the third candidate that was a challenge. It was a toss-up between two senior workers, Prakash Shettar and Lehar Singh Siroya. Shettar decided to withdraw at the last minute and Siroya turned lucky.
The dark horse
Seventy-four-year-old Siroya, who belongs to the Jain community, has been part of the BJP for over three decades. Having maintained a low profile at all times, this leader had often faced the difficulty of being accepted as part of the inner circle in the state unit. He, however, has been known to be a close confidante of former chief minister BS Yediyurappa who also made him an MLC for the first time in 2010. He has served two terms in the Karnataka legislative council and over the years built a good rapport with the central leadership with his discreet ways of working and fluent Hindi-speaking abilities. Siroya has often been the BJP’s Hindi interlocutor between leaders from Delhi and Karnataka.
“Apart from the fact that Siroya has been a loyal party worker for more than three decades, he is also Yediyurappa’s man. It is important to balance the Yediyurappa factor especially when things are yet to fall in place for his son Vijayendra. It is important that south India’s tallest BJP leader who opened the account for the party here also has a say in such a crucial decision,” the leader said on condition of anonymity.
Another BJP leader confirmed that it was Yediyurappa who proposed Siroya’s name during the state core committee meeting for the Rajya Sabha polls.
Opposition bickered, BJP gained
The opposition in Karnataka, comprising the Congress and JD(S), were at loggerheads with each party trying to outsmart the other. The Congress announced two candidates, Jairam Ramesh and Mansoor Khan, and a sulking JD(S) said it was not consulted on having an alliance. To counter the Congress, the JD(S) fielded Krupendra Reddy and tried seeking opposition leader Siddaramaiah’s support, but that did not materialise.
Ravi also said that two Congress leaders, one from JD(S) and two independents voted in the BJP’s favour and that increased the ruling party’s tally, making it not just a comfortable win but a resounding one.
Comparing to what happened in Maharashtra, Ravi said the alliance partners Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress are “unnatural allies”. They are together for “political convenience” and every effort is being made by those who are unhappy in those parties to bring down the partnership, he said.
“There is a lot of infighting in Maharashtra. There are many in the alliance parties who are very unhappy and are in touch with us. We encashed that opportunity and won,” said Ravi.