Karnataka Congress' "Horse-Trading" Jab In Battle For 4th Rajya Sabha Seat

JDS leader Kupendra Reddy told NDTV, "These are independent MLAs (and) I have every right to canvas for votes. I did not offer any money to them."


The Congress in Karnataka has filed a police complaint accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party of trying to 'poach' MLAs before the election next week to fill four Rajya Sabha seats from the state.

The Congress - which beat the BJP in last year's Assembly election - has alleged several crore rupees have been offered to two independent MLAs and two others from local parties. The ruling party has claimed the two independents, and at least one of the other two, were ready to back its candidates.

The BJP has rubbished the Congress' accusations.

Controversy over the four seats - which fall vacant April 2 - broke after Kupendra Reddy of the Janata Dal (Secular), which is allied with the BJP, was fielded as its second and the fifth overall candidate.

At present the Congress holds three of the four seats, and has opted to retain Syed Naseer Hussain, while giving Dalit writer L Hanumanthaiah's seat to former Union Minister Ajay Maken. The BJP, meanwhile, has given Union Minister Rajeev Chandrashekhar's seat to Narayana Bhandage.

The row is over the fourth seat - held for now by the Congress' GC Chandrasekhar, which the Congress had expected to retain without issue, since it thought it had the numbers to do so.

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In Karnataka, a party needs 46 MLAs to send one of its leaders to the Rajya Sabha.

The Congress has 135 lawmakers in the Assembly and claims the support of the two independent MLAs and a third - Darshan Puttanaiah from the Sarvodaya Karnataka Paksha - which gives it just enough to retain its three seats that fall vacant in this round.

Should those three not back the Congress, it could lose the seat to the BJP-JDS, which has a combined 85 MLAs. The two do not have the numbers, by themselves, to win the fourth seat unopposed, but might snatch the seat thanks to the preferential voting system.

The Congress' complaint is that the BJP-JDS fielding a fifth candidate is an indication it will indulge in horse-trading. "The NDA has fielded a fifth candidate to encourage horse trading. We have filed the complaint (with the Bengaluru Police Commissioner) and have said more details will be provided."

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The Congress has claimed the three independent MLAs have been approached via intermediaries, including professionals like hotel owners and doctors. Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar has denounced the candidature of Mr Reddy as the BJP and JDS trying to manipulate the votes.

Mr Reddy, meanwhile, has told NDTV, "These are independent MLAs (and) I have every right to canvas for votes. I did not offer any money to them."

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