The senior leader did not renew his Congress membership and made it public that he was upset with the party for putting him out to pasture.
Bengaluru’s favourite politician, at least among the ITeS industry, S.M. Krishna is leaving the Congress and joining hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The confirmation came from state BJP president B.S. Yeddyurappa who said he would be meeting the 84-year-old political veteran who last week created a flutter by not renewing his Congress party membership.
At a press conference last week to announce his severance from the grand old party, Krishna, who served as India's external affairs minister, Maharashtra governor, and Karnataka Chief Minister for 46 long years as a Congressman, took potshots at the party for ignoring him because of his age. “My party needs only managers, not leaders,” he said, clearly unhappy that he had been put out to pasture.
When asked if he was joining the BJP, he evaded an answer as speculation was rife that he was eyeing the post of vice president.
Yeddyurappa said Krishna had been in touch with Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the November 8 demonetisation drive and even appreciated the bold step.
“He has been in touch on the phone. Krishna has vast respect for Modi,” Yeddyurappa said.
Krishna, who belongs to the Vokkaliga clan, a majority landholding community in the state, cannot be wished away. A Harvard-educated Gowda who does not use the community name as his surname, Krishna is a strong leader and still has a major hold in the old Mysore region and Karnataka politics. He would certainly be an asset to neutralise the Janata Dal Secular led by former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda.
When Krishna made it official that he was leaving, the Congress panicked and announced a countdown for assembly elections 2018, which is more than a year away. The JDS immediately announced through H.D. Kumaraswamy, Gowda’s son and former CM, that the Siddaramaiah-led government would implode and fall within the next six–seven months.
The Congress brass hit back saying that the party had shielded Krishna on many occasions, including as external affairs minister, when he fumbled during his speech at the United Nations and embarrassed the country.
Krishna’s exit from the Congress has also reignited the outsider versus insider debate, which has been raging ever since the Congress high command imposed Siddaramaiah, a former JDS member, as Congress CM and packed his cabinet with party turncoats.
When state elections were announced in 2013, Krishna was named as a senior campaigner and the party utilised him to the hilt. Though unhappy, Krishna still was graceful and kept quiet. But, when his suggestions were not taken, he himself walked the talk. For example, he was the first to visit Maddur, his home constituency, when some farmers committed suicide, a new phenomenon in the region. Only after his visit, the government took note and Siddaramaiah rushed there.
Krishna, a former deputy CM under Veerappa Moily in 1993-94, returned as the chief minister in 1999 but most of his four-and-a-half-years in office were spent dousing the fire over the vexed issue of Cauvery water release to Tamil Nadu. He undertook a padayatra from Bengaluru to Mandya over the issue in defiance of the Supreme Court order. And, he also spent an anxious 108 days after matinee idol Rajkumar was kidnapped by forest brigand Veerappan.
Krishna has been the darling of the infotech community. As CM, he wanted to make Bangalore (then it was not Bengaluru yet) like Singapore. He roped in the private sector, mostly large IT and BT entrepreneurs, to suggest ways to develop the city and also set up the Bangalore Agenda Task Force.
In 2004, Krishna called an early election and lost due to his image as a suave urban leader and for being considered anti-farmer. Though the BJP got more numbers in the following polls, they could not form a government. As Krishna took the blame for the Congress finishing a poor second, his cabinet colleague and PWD Minister Dharam Singh was quick to seize the opportunity and stitch a Congress-JDS coalition that lasted till early 2006. Siddaramaiah was the deputy CM in the coalition and later joined the Congress.
Krishna, in those years, was made the Maharashtra governor and served a full five-year term. He later came back into active politics in UPA 2 and was Union external affairs minister. He was soon removed by the party high command and put out to pasture.
Though he was asked to campaign for the 2013 Assembly polls in Karnataka, it was clear by then that the Congress high command preferred Siddaramaiah as CM.
In the last few days, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Rajeev Chandrasekhar reportedly convinced Krishna to join the NDA. The Congress is still denying that Krishna is joining the BJP and making efforts to ask him to reconsider his decision.