The crucial Congress Legislative Party meeting started after a two-hour delay and only 75 of the 80 MLAs turned up. Although the numbers suggest that the embattled JDS-Congress coalition government in Karnataka is safe for the time being, the party is taking no chances.
While three MLAs ignored the party whip, continuing their stay at a Mumbai hotel, another “rebel” legislator Umesh Jadhav faxed a letter to CLP leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah seeking exemption from the meeting.
The 80th MLA of the Congress and Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar can cast his vote if there is a tie during voting in the Assembly. If these four MLAs resign, the HD Kumaraswamy government will have the support of 114 members in the Assembly, one clear of the majority mark.
Among the two independent MLAs who have withdrawn support to the government, Congress seems to have won back the support of Mulabagilu MLA Nagesh.
After the CLP meeting Siddaramaiah declared that BJP’s “operation Kamala” had been a resounding failure and a “slap in the face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah”.
Justifying the move to shift the MLAs to a resort, Siddaramaiah claimed Narendra Modi and Amit Shah were directly behind the bid to topple the government.
“They are trying to topple our government fearing a washout in the Lok Sabha elections. If Congress and JDS fight together, BJP will not get more than 3-4 Lok Sabha seats from Karnataka. BJP is offering up to Rs.100 Crore to our MLAs. This is how Chowkidar is running his party. We are not going to Gurgaon like BJP MLAs. We have to protect our MLAs”.
BJP chief in the state, BS Yeddyurappa, who was keenly watching the developments in Congress camp, gave a brief statement to the media. “It is true that just four Congress MLAs did not attend the CLP meeting. The number is not the issue here. It shows that all is not well in Congress. The party has lost moral right to rule” he said.
The three MLAs – Ramesh Jharkiholi, Umesh Kumatalli and B Nagendra – violated the party whip by staying away from CLP meeting without any explanation, while Umesh Jadhav said he was unwell in his letter to Siddaramiah.
The Congress said it will issue notices to the four MLAs seeking explanation from them for their absence at the CLP meeting, and after receiving the replies from the absentee lawmakers, the
issue would be discussed with the party high command and state leaders before deciding on the next step.
The BJP MLAs holed up at a resort near Gurgaon for the past one week expecting the collapse of HDK government are expected to return home in a day or two after the “failure” of their third serious attempt on the government.
According to insiders, mood in the BJP camp is somber and not many are in a position to believe their leaders again. The BJP is accusing the Congress and JDS of trying to poach their MLAs.