K.R.Pete /Hunsur: A group of middle-aged men are busy discussing the day’s plans in a non-descript tea shop in Thendekere, a small, picturesque village in Krishnarajapete or K.R.Pete taluk of Mandya district of Karnataka.
The plan for the day is to attend a public meeting in which former Karnataka chief minister H.D.Kumaraswamy is expected to campaign for the Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) candidate in the upcoming 5 December bypolls in the state.
But the discussions took an explosive turn with one bypoll related question by this reporter that prompted most of them to abuse--with the choicest of expletives--Narayana Gowda who defected to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The 27-year old tea stall owner, Somashekar, fought back defending the defections.
"Did Kumaraswamy ask us when he allied with the Congress last year. Then why should Gowda ask us to defect" he said, shouting down at least six others arguing against his statement.
He even questioned the decision of the JD(S) to favour Narayana Gowda against former assembly speaker Krishna two elections ago."Was that not injustice,"he thunders.
That fighting spirit of this young tea seller is what the BJP hopes to draw strenght in a Vokkaliga community dominated district that has denied it any political representation in its history.
But this inorganic entry--by poaching a legislators--has not gone down well in the Vokkaliga dominated constituency that has steadily consolidated behind former Prime minister H.D.Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy-led JD(S).
"(B.S) Yediyurappa tells Lingayats that not one vote should go to any other party. Why should our community (Vokkaligas) vote for them (BJP)," asks one senior member in the group.
Though Narayana Gowda is a Vokkaliga, his siding with the BJP has made it easier to overlook him in the JD(S) bastion.
Caste, money and party taking precedence over development or even inadequate relief work in a state that suffered its worst floods in over a century.
Most analysts and political leaders term Mandya's electorate as 'volatile and emotional' as it backed the JD(S) in all seven assembly constituencies but went against Nikhil Kumaraswamy in the Lok Sabha polls, throwing its weight behind the Sumalatha Amarnath (Sumalatha Ambareesh), an independent openly backed by the BJP.
But the anger against Narayana Gowda and 12 others rebels fielded by the BJP is on the question of political morality, if there is such a thing.
The anger against the defections not limited only to Mandya but Hunsur constituency in neighbouring Mysuru as well where people have been heckling any BJP leader supporting A.H.Vishwanath, the former JD(S) state president who defected.
"He sold himself for ₹50 crore," screams one of the hecklers, unafraid of the larger BJP supporters around the campaign truck.
The perception that the 17 rebels defected for individual gain not helping their cause or the BJP' which requires at least eight more seats to have a majority on it's own and continue in power.
"He was an MLA in the ruling party and he didn't do any work. Now he defected for money and is asking us to vote for him for development," 30 year old Manjunath says.
A sworn Congress supporter, Manjunath and at least five is his aides say that they will work against Vishwanth even though they voted for Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha elections.
Though Yediyurappa has made generous grants to bypolls bound constituencies, the fact that he cancelled all tenders and works by the previous Kumaraswamy-led government adding to perception that the former was practicing politics of vendetta.
The Congress and its estranged ally, the JD(S) have spared no opportunity to play victims of the BJP's ploy to bring down the coalition even though it rarely acknowledges the deep seated rivalry between the two parties.
Though there have been reports of a possible patch up of the coaltion, statements by H.D.Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy on their unwillingness to topple the Yediyurappa government giving all possibilities a chance in one of India's most politically volatile state.
But the recent results in neighbouring Maharashtra and bypolls in other states may have re-kindled some of the oppositions hope as most defectors to the BJP lost their seats.
That the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar outsmarted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minsiter Amit Shah by forcing Devendra Fadnavis to step down in just two days only adding to a view that the BJP can indeed be defeated.
A.Narayana, political analyst and faculty at the Azim Premji University says that there is a 'moral conundrum' at play here since all parties are guilty of one or the form of injustice to it's own.
The BJP have denied tickets to it's own aspirants to accommodate the rebel legislators whose resignations helped bring down the 14 month old Kumaraswamy-led coaltion government and instate Yediyurappa.
The Congress and JD(S) have resorted to similar strategy in the past. "Irrespective of the outcome the ethical question of Operation Kamala is being discussed," Narayana says.