NEW DELHI (TIP): Saffron rebel and former Karnataka CM B S Yeddyurappa has offered to merge his Karnataka Janata Paksha unconditionally with the BJP, tempting the party leadership with the promise to deliver bulk of the 28 seats in the state to Narendra Modi. Yeddyurappa’s offer has been conveyed to the party leadership and has reopened the debate on what it should do with the Lingayat strongman who played a key role in the party’s rise in Karnataka and whose revolt majorly contributed to the embarrassing defeat in the assembly elections in the state which was not long ago considered to be the BJP’s bridgehead for south India. Yeddyurappa had earlier indicated that he would join the NDA and prefer an alliance with the BJP to re-conversion. BJP sources confirmed that the fresh overture has enhanced the prospect of the return of Yeddyurappa, who was removed as CM because of corruption charges, to the fold any day after December 8 when the results of the five state polls will be out. Yeddyurappa’s trusted associate Lehar Singh refused to confirm that he had conveyed the former CM’s offer to party leaders, but did indicate that the latter was ready for a “nostrings- attached” return.

Asked whether KJP would prefer to return to the BJP, Singh said, “A merger will be in the interest of both parties as it will ensure a smooth synergy and boost the chances of BJP repeating its performance in the last Lok Sabha elections when it won 19 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats.” Asked specifically, he denied Yeddyurappa will seek positions for himself, his sons and his associates in exchange for the homecoming. “Yeddyurappa is not hankering for posts either for himself, members of his family or his associates. He has always held Modiji in high regard and his admiration for BJP’s PM candidate did not diminish even after he had to leave the party in unfortunate circumstance,” Singh, who has been Yeddyurappa’s emissary to Delhi and is known for channeling the Lingayat chieftain’s views, said. A significant section among the party brass had always seemed comfortable with the idea of Yeddyurappa’s return, but was chary of advocating the viewpoint forcefully for the fear of annoying veteran L K Advani and the former CM’s known opponent, Ananth Kumar. Sources in the party also said leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj was not too enamoured with the idea of KJP’s merger. However, sources said Yeddyurappa’s unconditional offer may tip the scales in favour of blending; especially in view of the party’s objective to retake the Centre.

Sources said those opposed to Yeddyurappa’s return could not refute the argument of the party benefiting from the merger, but always cited the fear of the strongman seeking to extract a stiff price to justify their stance. Party sources count Karnataka as the only state with a significant number of Lok Sabha seats where Congress, based on its convincing win in the assembly elections, stands to improve its score in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. BJP tacticians feel the losses that the BJP seems set to suffer can be averted by joining forces with Yeddyurappa whose KJP polled over 9.9% votes against BJP’s 19% in the assembly elections, stacking the odds against the saffron party when it was reeling under a heavy burden of incumbency in any case. Going by assembly elections, Congress will win 22 seats against two for BJP and four for JD(S) if the terrain remains the same for the Lok Sabha polls. If the votes of BJP, Yeddyurappa and B S Sriramulu, another saffron rebel who polled 2% of the assembly vote, are added, then the saffron outfit will overtake Congress in 11 LS constituencies while Congress will be ahead in 14. Though the assembly elections can’t be replicated, party strategists say the idea that they will gain is unquestionable. They also feel that the alliance route will not deliver goods because the two sides can not be expected to have a perfect understanding on seat sharing and will, thus, leave open the possibility of sabotage.

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