Former Karnataka chief minister and Union external affairs minister SM Krishna is scheduled to formally join the Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday at its headquarters in New Delhi in the presence of party president Amit Shah.
Krishna, 84, had ended his four-decades-old association with the Congress on January 29, citing a shift from its core ideology and a lack of respect for senior leaders as reasons for the decision.
There had been much speculation on his likely move, and it had been widely anticipated that he would join the BJP after he ruled out joining the Janata Dal (Secular).
“Krishna is a very senior politician with experience both at the Centre and in the state,” senior state BJP leader KS Eshwarappa said. “Apart from his personal influence in the Mandya region, he is liked by the educated class for his developmental work in Bengaluru,” Eshwarappa said.
Political analysts, though, are not convinced about the influence he will have and his ability to pull votes.
Also, given the BJP virtually sidelining every leader over 75 years of age, it is not clear how the party can capitalize on Krishna joining its ranks.
Krishna, who was the Karnataka Chief Minister from 1999 to 2004, had returned to state politics after stepping down as then external affairs minister in 2012. He has also served as the governor of Maharashtra
CS Dwarkanath, former chairman of the state’s Backward Classes Commission, said Krishna was not a big leader even among Vokkaligas, the caste he belongs to. “He has never been the leader of the Vokkaligas in the same way as former prime minister HD Deve Gowda.”
Dwarkanath said the BJP had some way to go to win seats in the Mysuru and Mandya regions of the state, and was doubtful of Krishna’s influence in the primarily agrarian district. “Krishna’s tenure as chief minister is viewed only as benefitting Bengaluru,” Dwarkanath added.
“Krishna’s inclusion might help boost morale among party workers in the region, but is unlikely to significantly impact voters,” Dwarkanth said.
Narendar Pani, a political analyst, said it would be difficult for the BJP to bank just on Krishna. “He is not a mass leader, but then there are no mass leaders in Karnataka. Success in the state’s politics has always been based on the ability to enlist support from a coalition of groups, and Krishna might help in this.”
The Mysuru and Mandya regions have traditionally been tough places for the BJP. In the assembly elections of 2013, the BJP did not win even a single seat in the three districts of Mandya, Mysore and Chamarajanagar, which account for 22 of the 225 seats in the state. In 2008 it won three seats.
However, the BJP is not just banking on one disgruntled former Congress politician. It has managed to get into its fold former state minister V Sreenvas Prasad, who resigned his seat and is contesting the by-elections in Nanjangud constituency as a BJP candidate.
In another constituency in the area, Gundlupet, too, the BJP is aiming to make inroads before the assembly polls next year. However, in this constituency the BJP candidate faces off against Geetha Mahadev Prasad, wife of former minister HS Mahadev Prasad, who passed away in January.
The BJP was able to make inroads during the Lok Sabha elections when the party won the Mysore Lok Sabha seat on the back of the ‘Modi wave’.