Exactly ten years ago, BJP was in a similar situation in Karnataka. After the 2008 state elections, BJP was three seats short of majority to form government under BS Yeddyurappa. Former minister Gali Janardhana Reddy, a mining baron, then worked out a method to secure the required support. Circumventing the anti-defection law, Reddy managed to take BJP past the majority mark of 112. The entire exercise came to be known as Operation Kamala.
A decade down the line, BJP may need another Operation Kamala as it falls short of eight seats to form government, despite having emerged as the single largest party in the Karnataka assembly polls.
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There were reports that the BJP was trying to woo back at least four Congress MLAs and a couple of JD(S) MLAs who defected from the party just before the May 12 elections.
“We heard that they are trying to do Operation Kamala now also. Let them try,” JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy, however, sounded confident of keeping the flock together.
He met Governor Vajubhai Vala on Tuesday evening to stake claim to form government with Congress support.
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In 2008, BJP had managed to make three Congress and four JD(S) legislators resign. These seven MLAs then contested by-elections on BJP ticket. While five of them won, two lost. However, the five newly gained seats were enough to take the party’s strength in the House to 115. Though there were allegations of political and money power being offered to the MLAs who defected, the BJP was elated with its success. It called the model a “political innovation” and went on to present it at the next BJP national executive meeting.
Though political analysts and other parties had called it “devious” and “completely immoral”, BJP had since continued with Operation Kamala and extended it to all levels — from MP candidates to gram panchayat leaders.
Former minister G Janardhana Reddy, along with its aides, was among the key accused in the alleged illegal mining racket that flourished between 2008 and 2013 when B S Yeddyurappa was briefly the chief minister. An estimated Rs 16,000 crore worth of iron ore was allegedly exported with help from people in the government.
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G Janardhana Reddy hasn’t lost his prominence in the scheme of things. His brothers G Somasekhara Reddy and G Karunakara Reddy, who contested the 2018 election on BJP tocket, comfortably won the Bellary City and Harapanahalli seats, respectively.
BJP still trusts Janardhana Reddy, the man who is credited with the party’s victory in a lot of seats this time in central Karnataka. Some party leaders have spoken to sections of media about their confidence in him to get the required numbers once again.