With the outcome of the coming bypolls to 15 Karnataka assembly constituencies crucial for survival of its government, the ruling BJP is going all out to ensure victory of its candidates, most of them rebel disqualified MLAs, pitching them as future ministers.
Congress and JDS, whose coalition government was pulled down by the rebels in July leading to their disqualification and paving the way for BJP rule, have resolved to ensure their defeat and taken objection to Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa projecting them as ministerial candidates.
Petitioning the Election Commission on Saturday, the Congress has said Mr Yediyurappa made the statement with a view to inducing and influencing voters of these segments for furtherance of the electoral prospects of the BJP candidates.
Leaders of both Congress and JD(S) have said ensuring the defeat of the disqualified legislators was their main agenda.
Today is the last date for filing of nominations for the December 5 bypolls, necessitated by resignation and absence of 17 Congress-JD(S) legislators, subsequently disqualified under the anti-defection law by the then assembly Speaker.
Sixteen of the 17 have joined BJP on November 14, a day after the Supreme Court paved the way for them to contest the bypolls. BJP has given tickets to 13 of the Congress-JDS rebels for the bypolls in their respective seats.
Expressing confidence about party's victory in all the 15 seats, though it requires to win only six to remain in power, Mr Yediyurappa on Sunday said he would campaign in all the constituencies in support of the newcomers to the party.
He said leaders of some political parties have said their aim was to defeat BJP candidates, but people would give them the right answer.
To make Mr Yediyurappa the Chief Minister and for good governance, they (rebels) resigned and came out (of coalition government). "If people expect me to continue as Chief Minister and want development, if they desire majority government, I'm confident they will support BJP," he added.
Referring to Congress' objection, he said there was nothing wrong in promising during campaign that the candidates would be made ministers if they won.
"What is the crime in saying during campaign that we will make our candidates Ministers if they win?... Election Commission cannot do anything on it. It is my prerogative as Chief Minister on who should be made Minister or left out," he said.
Attacking the disqualified MLAs, Congress Legislature Party leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah on Sunday said they should be ashamed to seek votes. "Our stand is very clear we want to defeat the BJP and disqualified MLAs, it is crystal clear," he said.
Supreme Court had upheld their disqualification and now people would teach them a lesson in the bypolls, he added.
JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy, whose party is contesting the bypolls alone, too had recently said defeating disqualified MLAs was his partys main strategy.
JD(S) patriarch HD Deve Gowda has claimed the Chief Minister was "perturbed" about the winnability of disqualified MLAs and hence he was issuing statements about making them ministers, with an intention to lure voters.
On Congress strategy for the bypolls, Mr Siddaramaiah said: "Our effort is to win all 15 seats. But we will win at least 12." He said the party would contest the polls under collective leadership and there won't be any rebellion.
A day after announcing second list of six candidates, the Congress on Sunday named P Nagaraj as its candidate in Yeshwantpur. With this
JD(S) is yet to name its candidates for four seats. With the announcement of candidates, all the three parties are facing dissidence within and have mounted efforts to pacify the disgruntled.
The problem was more pronounced in BJP as its decision to give tickets to the disqualified Congress-JD(S) MLAs has not gone down well with aspirants in some constituencies such as Hoskote and Kagwad.
Party leader Sharath Bachegowda has decided to contest as independent in Hoskote while former MLA Raju Kage has quit the BJP and has been fielded by the Congress there.
Mr Yediyurappa on Sunday warned Bachegowda would be expelled from party and asserted that disqualified legislator and BJP nominee MTB Nagaraj will emerge triumphant in Hoskote. "I'm saying, at no cost Sharath Bachegowda will be able to win in Hoskote, we are expelling him from the party. He will either be removed from the Chairman post (of Housing Board) or his resignation will be sought," Yediyurappa said.
JD(S) has decided to support Sharath, who lost to Nagaraj in 2018 assembly elections, by not fielding any candidate in Hoskote.
Of the 15 constituencies going to polls, as many as 12 were represented by Congress and three by JD(S).