On the brink of collapse after rebellion from a section of MLAs, the Karnataka government on Monday took several measures to retain majority in the state Assembly. While all the ministers from Congress and JD(S) quit "voluntarily" to make room in the cabinet for dissidents, coalition leaders blamed the BJP for indulging in "horse-trading" activities in a bid to topple the HD Kumaraswamy government.
Shortly after Congress ministers decided to resign at a breakfast meeting held at Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara's residence in Bengaluru, the JD(S) representatives, too, followed suit after Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy met leaders of Congress, setting the stage for the reshuffle.
The decision was taken after 13 MLAs — ten of the Congress and three of JDS — submitted their resignations from the Assembly membership, plunging the government into a serious crisis. The crisis deepened on Monday, with two Independent MLAs — H Nagesh and R Shankar — resigning from the ministry and withdrawing their support to the coalition. Incidentally, the two were inducted into the ministry in June after a fresh bout of dissidence to prevent them from siding with the BJP.
The issue also echoed in the Parliament, where the central government denied any role in the political turmoil even as Congress accused it of hatching a conspiracy.
In the Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the resignation drive was started by Congress president Rahul Gandhi. "Big leaders of Congress are resigning," he said.
Though Kumaraswamy's government appeared on the edge, the JD(S) leader, who returned from his 10-day-long US trip on Sunday, put up a brave face, saying he was not afraid of the developments. "I have no fear about the political developments, I will not discuss about the political developments... I have nothing do with what BJP people are doing and what others are doing," he told reporters.
BJP demands Kumaraswamy's resignation
BJP, on its part, demanded immediate resignation of Kumaraswamy, saying his government was in 'minority'. "If at all he has dignity, honour and self-esteem, or if he is aware of Karnataka's culture and traditions, he should immediately resign... Do not try to stick on to the chair. You do not have the numbers," former deputy chief minister R Ashok said.
Karnataka BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa lashed out at Kumaraswamy for claiming the state government will run smoothly. "Two Independent MLAs met the governor and gave letters that they'll support BJP. Now, we're 107 (MLAs in Assembly). Even when they've lost majority, Kumaraswamy is speaking like that. People are observing everything. Let us see and wait," he said.
The BJP held a legislative party meeting, during which it decided to wait for two more days before deciding on its course of action. "Today's meeting was called to discuss the issues to be taken up in the Assembly session which begins on 12 July. But this government changed our agenda as they've now come in minority. Question is, will this government stay or not? It was discussed to wait for two more days and see if this government resigns or not, and then decide our course of action. We'll hold a legislative party meet again," BJP MLA Arvind Limbavali said.
The return of resort politics
Despite the Congress-JD(S)' efforts to rope in the disgruntled MLAs, resort politics returned to haunt the Kumaraswamy government, as the dissidents seemed unmoved and stayed put in a Mumbai hotel.
Nagesh joined them in the western metropolis while Shankar was on his way there even as Congress leaders kept maintaining that the crisis would blow over and there will be no need for a number crunch.
The Maharashtra BJP claimed it was not aware of the presence of the dissident Congress-JD(S) MLAs from Karnataka even as Maharashtra BJP legislator Prasad Lad was spotted at the hotel where the legislators were put up.
Meanwhile, the JD(S) moved its MLAs to a Taj West End in Bengaluru. While Youth Congress workers staged protests outside the Mumbai hotel, Congress and JD(S) workers hit the streets of Bengaluru against the alleged "horse-trading" attempts by the BJP.
Maharashtra: Youth Congress workers protest outside Sofitel hotel in Mumbai where rebel Karnataka MLAs are staying. pic.twitter.com/RW5ukOdhHv
— ANI (@ANI) July 8, 2019
Later on Monday, the rebels MLAs in Mumbai boarded a bus to Goa, while the JD(S) legislators in Bengaluru were moved to Prestige Golfshire in Devanahalli.
Amid the crisis, Congress MLA Roshan Baig said he will quit his party and join the BJP. "I'm hurt by the way Congress party treated me," he told ANI. In June, Baig was suspended from the Congress for "anti-party activities" after he criticised senior Congress leaders Siddaramaiah and Dinesh Gundu Rao over poor results in the Lok Sabha election.
Congress, BJP plan state-wide protests
Both the Congress and the BJP have decided to hold state-wide protests on Tuesday against each other, over the political situation.
While he Congress has decided to hold protests at all the district centres in Karnataka against the "anti-democratic and unconstitutional BJP", the saffron party is planning to hold demonstrations to seek Kumaraswamy's resignation.
The JD(S)-Congress coalition's total strength after Nagesh and Shankar withdrawing their support is 116 (Congress-78, JD(S)-37 and BSP-1), besides the Speaker.
With the support of two Independents, the BJP has 107 MLAs in the 224-member House, where the half-way mark is 113. If the resignations of the MLAs (13 Congress-JDS and two Independents) are accepted, the coalition's tally will be reduced to 103. The Speaker also has a vote.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jul 08, 2019 23:12:26 IST