Bengaluru: Two senior Karnataka Congress leaders on Wednesday joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) along with their supporters, indicating a growing trend in the state ahead of the 2018 assembly elections.

Former member of Parliament from Udupi-Chikmagalur Jayaprakash Hegde and former member of legislative assembly from Hospet Rathan Singh formally joined the BJP on Wednesday.

The development comes as a big blow to the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in the state which has seen at least three senior leaders switch sides to the principal opposition party.

The BJP has been welcoming new entrants into the party even though it is yet to resolve differences cropping up within its own ranks as a fight between its top leadership continues. Party president B.S.Yeddyurappa’s differences with K.S.Eshwarappa are yet to be resolved despite the intervention of BJP’s national president Amit Shah.

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The state unit dismisses these differences as “quarrels within a family".

“When a party is expected to come to power, there will be some issues. There is no party in this country which does not face these problems," G.Madhusudhan, spokesperson for the state unit of the BJP, said on Wednesday.

Karnataka also holds the key to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ (Congress-free India) dream as it is the last big state governed by the grand old party.

The BJP has been attracting dissenters to reclaim power in the state after it was reduced from 110 seats in 2008 to 40 in 2013 following corruption allegations.

Former Karnataka CM S.M. Krishna’s exit from the Congress has further consolidated the BJP’s reputation as a destination for dissidents from the state’s ruling party.

Krishna is expected to meet Amit Shah next week after he ended his five-decade-long association with the Congress in January. Former minister S.Kumar Bangarappa left the Congress last week and is likely to join the BJP on Thursday.

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