2 Independents withdraw support to Congress-JDS government

The BJP has 104 MLAs, Congress 80 (including Speaker), JD(S) 37, the BSP, KPJP and Independent have one each.

Bengaluru: Two Independent MLAs in Karnataka on Tuesday withdrew support from the Congress-JD(S) coalition government headed by H.D. Kumaraswamy amid the on-going turmoil triggered by charges of horse trading flung at each other by the ruling alliance partners and the BJP. The development reduced the ruling coalition’s strength to 118 in the 224-member Assembly but posed no threat to the government that continues to be in the safe zone in a House with a halfway mark of 113.

The BJP has 104 MLAs, Congress 80 (including Speaker), JD(S) 37, the BSP, KPJP and Independent have one each.

Independent legislators H. Nagesh and R. Shankar of Karnataka Praja Janata Paksha (KPJP), both currently staying in a Mumbai hotel, wrote identical letters to governor Vajubhai Vala to withdraw their support with immediate effect. They also requested Mr Vala to take “necessary action”.

Mr Shankar was dropped from the HDK Council of Ministers during the recent Cabinet rejig, reportedly for showing reluctance to be an associate member of the Congress. Mr Nagesh was miffed over not being included in the seven-month-old ministry.

Accusing the Kumaraswamy government of inefficiency, Mr Shankar said, “Today is Makar Sankranti. On this day we want a change in government... so I am withdrawing my support today.”

Pointing to the numbers, a seemingly unfazed Mr Kumaraswamy said he was totally relaxed and there was no cause for concern. “I know my strength. My government is stable. Don’t worry,” the chief minister told reporters. JD(S) chief and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda also asserted that nothing would happen to the government headed by his son.

“It is not in anybody’s hands, including the media. However much you cry hoarse, nothing will happen because it is in the hands of God. When a party (JDS) of 37 MLAs gets the blessings of a national party (Congress), it is all the wish of God,” Mr Gowda said.

Over the past two days, there allegations have been flying between the Congress and the BJP camps of attempted poaching.

The Congress had said several of its lawmakers have gone “missing”, amid reports that five of its MLAs were unreachable.

However, Mr Kumaraswamy said all the Congress lawmakers had gone after informing him and were “continuously in contact” with him.

The Congress accused the BJP of launching another “Operation Lotus” — a term coined in 2008 when the BJP allegedly engineered defections of Opposition legislators to ensure its government headed by B.S. Yeddyurappa remained stable.

The Opposition BJP had on Monday shifted its 104 lawmakers to a hotel in Gurgaon, Haryana, fearing their poaching by the ruling coalition. The 104 MLAs checked into the 5-star ITC Grand Bharat resort in Gurgaon at 5 pm on Monday, virtually taking over the entire resort. They are occupying 60 of its 100-odd rooms, with each one costing around '30,000. The retreat has heated pools and golfing. The legislators were seen playing a game of cricket.

BJP state president Mr Yeddyurappa, former chief minister Jagadish Shettar and other senior leaders like Shobha Karandlaje are among the 104 MLAs staying in the resort. Mr Yeddyurappa has rubbished reports about the BJP attempting “Operation Lotus” to topple the HDK government and said there was no truth in it. He alleged that the Congress-JD(S) combine was trying to lure Opposition MLAs. With fear of “Operation Lotus” taking shape, AICC general secretary K.C. Venugopal said, “We are confident that the HDK govt will continue. Even though they are offering a lot of things to our MLAs, we are very confident… We are in touch with all our MLAs. Our people are with us.” Mr Venugopal alleged that the MLAs of the Congress-JD(S) ruling combine were being offered a “lot of things” by the BJP to switch sides.

In a tweet, Congress’ former chief minister Siddaramaiah said, “The recent miserable loss in five states is the result of their (the BJP’s) ongoing attempt in Karnataka which will fail.”

The Congress has convened a meeting of all its MLAs on Wednesday to take stock of the evolving situation, party sources said.

Meanwhile, senior BJP leader and party’s in-charge for Karnataka P. Muralidhar Rao on Tuesday said the JD(S)-Congress government in the state “cannot survive” its full five-year term and will fall on its own due to internal conflicts. Denying reports of BJP trying to topple the government, Mr Rao claimed the “problem is within the Congress”, as its leader D.K. Shivkumar wants to lead the government.

“The problem is internal rivalry and conflicts of personal ambitions within the alliance, especially within the Congress. The problem of D.K. Shivakumar, who aspires to lead the government, has now become a problem of the Congress. And, this has been going for the last six months,” Mr Rao said. Terming the alliance “opportunistic and unnatural”, Mr Rao said when a party with 79 MLAs extends support to a party with less than half the number of its MLAs, the government cannot be stable.

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