New Delhi, Mar 6: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally at Nutan Vidyalaya Grounds at Kalaburagi in Karnataka on Wednesday was significant in more ways than one for the BJP, which is apparently sanguine over unseating the Congress veteran Mallikarjun Kharge from Gulbarga parliamentary constituency.
Congress rebel MLA Umesh Jadhav, who tendered his resignation to the Karnataka Speaker earlier this week, on Wednesday joined the BJP at a rally flanked by BJP stalwarts BS Yeddyurappa, Jagadish Shettar and Union Minister DV Sadanand Gowda among others.
Yeddyurappa also handed over the BJP flag to Jadhav and all posed together for a group photograph. Jadhav's name will be considered for a contest against Kharge, who has been winning the seat since 2009.
In a sense, Congress sources suggest in Delhi as well as in Bengaluru that Kharge may get an important position in the 'Congress strategy' after this year's general elections. "Kharge may be the new face in the Congress who will be man to watch," a party source remarked.
It may be mentioned that prior to 2009, Gulbarga was a general seat and it fell into Congress kitty after the seat was made reserved for Scheduled Caste after delimitation.
"Mr Kharge, a Dalit face and unblemished, already has Rahul Gandhi's confidence and this was reflected when despite being floor leader, the former Union Minister was made Chairman of Public Accounts Committee replacing another trusted face KV Thomas," a source said. Kharge was also given the charge of Maharashtra.
Now, BJP is keen to field a strong candidate against MKharge. "Umesh Jadhav, who represents Chincholi Assembly seat in Gulbarga or Kalaburagi region, will be the second leader in race for BJP ticket after former Karnataka Chief Secretary K Ratnaprabha," a BJP source told UNI here. Jadhav has been a medico who served at Kalaburagi.
According to party sources, a short list prepared by the Karnataka unit in January had the name of former top bureaucrat Ratnaprabha, who was hugely popular during her stint as a civil servant.
She is a popular name in the State and is known for her credible work. The 1981 batch IAS officer had left her mark as an officer, a section of Karnataka BJP leader had told this to party chief Amit Shah and other senior leaders during BJP National Convention in January.
But entertaining Jadhav, that too at a rally addressed by the Prime Minister suggests the party's poll strategists now could be having second thought vis-a-vis local conditions. However, Jadhav's entry has been opposed by a section of BJP leaders including Baburao Chavan and Sunil Vallyapure. The BJP has won the seat in 1996 and 1998.
“I am happy and proud joining the BJP,” Jadhav said before Prime Minister Modi arrived on the stage. Meanwhile, Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah has petitioned the Speaker seeking disqualification of Jadhav along with three other Congress legislators R Jarkiholi, B Nagendra and Mahesh Kumathali under the anti-defection law.
Sources said Jadhav has been "upset" due to the dominance by Kharge and his son Priyank Kharge in the region.
Priyank won from Chitarpur in 2018 aassembly polls and is now the Minister of Social Welfare in the Kumaraswamy government. (UNI)