Congress stalwart SM Krishna finally joins BJP

Former Karnataka chief minister and Congress leader SM Krishna has finally joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) giving a boost to Narendra Modi's Bhartiya Janata Party in Karnataka.

Krishna, a former cabinet minister in the UPA government at the centre, announced his decision in the presence of party president Amit Shah in New Delhi today.

The 84-year-old had resigned from the Congress in January and ever since speculation was rife of his joining the BJP.

Krishna described the move as "a very important stop in my onward journey" and also praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that India has progressed "because of the leadership of PM Modi and Amit Shah."

Krishna quit Congress after remaining with the party for 46 years. Reports said his joining the BJP was delayed by two weeks due to a death in his family. The former Congress leader's addition to the BJP is being seen as an important move by the party towards its efforts to regain power in Karnataka. It has huge political presence and influence in Karnataka, especially over the Lingayat community which is a major supporter of state BJP president BS Yeddyurappa.

He is, in fact, is the first big Vokkaliga leader in the BJP ranks after the party's minister at the centre, Sadanand Gowda. Gowda, however, is from the coastal Mangalore belt and not the Mandya-Tumkur heartland, where the Vokkaliga vote is a deciding factor in elections.

BJP is closest to power only in Karnataka among all southern states. It is now trying to improve its strength with the induction of leaders from other party - a strategy that has served it well in the elections in Assam and Uttar Pradesh.

The 84-year-old, who had been one of the close aides of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi and held key posts at the Centre and state, had been hurt that many in the party's state unit considered him a spent force and sidelined him.

Krishna, however, is seen as an influential leader in Bangalore, which has three Lok Sabha seats and 24 assembly seats. He is also extremely popular as a leader of the powerful Vokkaliga caste in the Mandya, Mysore and Tumkur region, seen as the caste stronghold.