'Operation lotus' to bail BJP govt out of mid-life crisis?

Sriramulu boasts support of 20 MLAs even as BJP suspended three legislators for identifying with rival leader; JD(S) and Cong to force Sadanada Gowda to take a floor test as the House sits for winter session post Bellary bypoll

Fearing an imminent mid-life crisis for the D V Sadananda Gowda government post Bellary bypoll verdict, a wary BJP is contemplating playing its time-tested trump card -- 'operation lotus' -- to turn the table on an ever-conspiring JD(S) by poaching the rival party's MLAs to its fold.

Back in the game: B Sriramulu is planning to float his own political outfit
at the behest of his jailed mentor G Janardana Reddy. File pic

Feeling tremors
As soon as the BJP suspended three MLAs -- B Nagenra, T H Suresh Babu, G Somashekara Reddy -- along with two MPs and an MLC for supporting rebel leader B Sriramulu, the government started feeling the tremors of an imminent trouble.

Even as Sriramulu is claiming to have support of over 20 BJP legislators, the JD(S), which is supporting the rival leader in Bellary bypoll, is trying to make the most of this fluid political situation.

The November 30 bypoll was necessitated by Sriramulu's resignation as a BJP MLA in September in protest of humiliation he and his mentors -- Janardhana Reddy and G Karunakara -- were subjected to by the party after the trio were indicted in the Lokayukta report on illegal mining.

Now, it has become a decisive battle between the parent party and its rebel son.

According to political observers, the verdict of the bypoll will have a deep impact on the stability of the government with the Reddy camp having a strong hold on a section of BJP legislators.

"The divide in the BJP is inevitable even if the party wins the election. I think after the bypoll, we will have to embark on a number game to save the government. And yes, 'Operation lotus' is one of the several strategies we are working on now," said a BJP spokesperson.

Of 223 seats, excluding speaker and a nominated Anglo-Indian member, the BJP has 121 in the House. And if Sriramulu proves himself a man of words and deeds and manages to lure around 20 BJP MLAs, the government will fall short of the majority. According to political observers, now the BJP has two options to save the government -- either poach opposition MLAs or lure Sriramulu and gang back to the party fold.

"If Sriramulu joins the parent party after polls, it will be a win-win situation for the BJP and the rival leader too. I think the suspended MLAs will also be welcomed into the party fold," said Girish Mattennvar, a BJP leader.

And if the BJP fails to woo back Sriramulu, the winter session of the assembly, which begins in the first week this month, may prove too harsh for Sadananda Gowda, who will be attending his first session as the chief minister, with the Congress and the JD(S) trying almost every trick to pull down his government.

The Sriramulu faction, pegged to play the role of a kingmaker, looks upbeat. "We don't fear suspension as we know we have done nothing wrong by supporting our leader Sriramulu. We are prepared for the eventualities.

And if they want to reconcile us, it would be on our terms, including a respectful place for Sriramulu in the BJP," said Suresh Babu, BJP MLA backing Sriramulu.

New outfit in offing
According to sources, Sriramulu is planning to launch his own political outfit at the behest of his jailed mentor G Janardana Reddy and field candidates in Bellary, Koppal, Haveri, Gadag, Chitradurga, Danagere and Bagalkote districts in the next assembly polls. The JD(S) will have a tacit understanding with Sriramulu's party and will concentrate on the southern districts, including Mysore, Mandya, Bangalore and Tumkur.

If Sriramulu camp is able to pull off a coup after the bypoll, the state is likely to face a mid-term election poll. "The idea is to form a coalition government maintaining equidistance from the Congress and the BJP," said the JD(S) leader.

As was expected the BJP leadership has embarked on 'operation lotus' under which they have started poaching MLAs from the JD(S) and the Congress to save its 'wilting lotus' in the state. JD(S) MlAs M Srinivas, Subhas Guttedar and Aruna patil and a Congress MLA Amare Gowda Bayyapura are reportedly in talks with BJP bigwigs.
Now, former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, who stepped down owing to criminal charges filed against him and was angry with the party, is playing a crucial role in 'operation lotus'.

As the party has reportedly succumbed to his demands and decided to go to assembly polls under his leadership, Yeddyurappa is expected to leave no stone unturned to bail the BJP government out of this mid-life crisis with his money and community muscle power.

"We know the BJP is trying every trick in the book, but they can not poach our legislators. Operation lotus is a vulgar and undemocratic trick. I have spoken to my MLAs and they will not leave us," said JD(S) state president H D Kumarswamy.

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