As govt pacifies rebels, BJP says 5-6 more ready to jump ship
Bengaluru/Delhi/ Bhopal: With the crisis in Karnataka set to mark its eighth day, the Congress Party on Saturday pulled out its big guns and sent Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath to try and save the coalition government that has been teetering on the edge of collapse following the resignations of several ruling party MLAs from the state Assembly.
The Madhya Pradesh chief minister, who made an “unscheduled” visit to Delhi on Friday following a call from the top leadership, has been appointed “crisis manager” by the Congress high command to pacify the rebel MLAs and bail out the coalition government in Karnataka. He arrived in Bengaluru late on Saturday alongside senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on a day when five more rebel legislators moved the Supreme Court against the Speaker not accepting their resignation.
“He has been assigned the role of crisis manager to save the JD(S)- Congress coalition government in Karnataka from collapsing in the wake of resignation of some Congress MLAs”, sources close to Mr Nath told this newspaper, requesting not to be quoted.
The state Congress too went into an overdrive on Saturday, with Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah dispatching his top trouble-shooters — D.K. Shivakumar and state deputy chief minister Dr G. Parameshwar, who were later joined by chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy — to step up efforts to pacify Hoskote MLA, M.T.B. Nagaraj and withdraw his resignation.
Mr Nagaraj, in a huge boost to the Congress’ hopes, not only hinted that he might reconsider his resignation, but also said that he would try and persuade the other rebels to withdraw their objections too.
Speaking to reporters after a series of meetings with party leaders, particularly Mr Siddarmaiah and the chief minister, Mr Nagaraj said, “I have been in this (Congress) party for the last 30 years. I had tendered my resignation, but now I will withdraw.”
The onus is now on Mr Shivakumar to convince two other disgruntled MLAs — Anand Singh and Muniratna Naidu — to drop their resignations, with Mr Singh being the tougher call given his BJP antecedents.
Apart from this, Mr Siddarmaiah is in touch with S.T. Somashekar, Byrathi Basavarju and B.C. Patil.
“Though Mr Siddaramaiah succeeded in persuading Mr Nagaraj to fall in line, the next move would be to tap these three legislators. Except for Mr Patil, the other two legislators have not asked to become ministers, making it easier to bring them back into the party fold. Simultaneously, negotiations with legislators like Shivaram Hebbar, Dr K. Sudhakar and others are still on but we have not been able to cut ice with them yet,” a source said.
However, the BJP too upped the ante, demanding that the chief minister seek a trust vote on Monday, a day prior to the Supreme Court hearing on the petition of 10 rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs who have resigned.
BJP sources revealed they are working on bringing in five-six more dissidents to topple the government as part of B.S.Yeddyurappa’s strategy to ensure that a total of 16 Congress and JD(S) MLAs abstain during the trust vote and the two Independent MLAs vote against it, which gives it a total of 18 votes against the Kumaraswamy government.
“Another three MLAs are ready to resign in the middle of session, and maybe two more,” a die-hard supporter of Mr Yeddyurappa told this newspaper. “We will defeat the trust vote by more than 6-7 votes,” he said confidently.
Meanwhile, five Congress MLAs — including Mr Nagaraj — moved the Supreme Court on the case over their resignations from the Assembly membership. The five legislators — Anand Singh, K. Sudhakar, Mr Nagaraj, N. Muniratna and Roshan Baig — contended in their application that they had submitted their resignations in accordance with Article 190, read with Rule 202 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly.
“Despite submitting the applications in person, Speaker K. Ramesh Kumar has not accepted them. The act of submitting the resignations in person itself shows that the resignation letters were submitted voluntarily and were genuine,” they stated.
The Congress, however, brushed aside the five MLAs’ plaint, banking on private assurances from Mr Ramalinga Reddy and Mr Roshan Baig that they may not take their running battle with Mr Siddaramaiah to its logical conclusion by voting against the government.
Mr Siddaramaiah was much more sanguine on Saturday than he has been for days. Apart from his fellow Kuruba clansmen M.T.B. Nagaraj, the Congress may have also persuaded strongman R. Ramalinga Reddy to soften his earlier stand on resigning from his legislator’s post. Mr Reddy declared publicly that he would “start participating” in the ongoing legislature session Monday onwards.
The ruling coalition’s strength in the House before the crisis erupted was 116 (Congress 78, JDS 37 and BSP 1), besides the Speaker. With the support of the two Independents, the Opposition BJP has 107 MLAs in the 224-member House. If the resignations of the 16 rebel MLAs are accepted, the ruling coalition’s tally will be reduced to 100.