Karnataka Water Resources Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi on Friday claimed that 22 Congress MLAs were in touch with him and he could get five of them to defect 'on a trial basis' within a week if the BJP high command gives him the go-ahead.
Congress was quick to react, saying his remarks only showed that all was not well within the BJP. "If the BJP high command permits, I can get five Congress MLAs to defect immediately. There are 22 Congress MLAs in touch with me, but on a trial basis I can get five of them to break away in a week," Jarkiholi told reporters in Chamarajnagar.
Jarkhiholi's remarks came a day after a section of MLAs from North Karnataka met at the residence of former MP Ramesh Katti at Bellad Bagewadi in Belagavi district in the backdrop of coming elections to four Rajya Sabha seats from the state.
Vijayapura BJP MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, who was among those who attended the meeting, on Friday expressed dissatisfaction with Yediyurappa's style of functioning, saying some works had not been completed despite the MLAs taking them up with the Chief Minister.
He did not elaborate on what the works were. To a question, Jarkiholi said nothing much need be read into the meeting and claimed that things would be 'set right' with the help of seniors in the party. There was no threat to the BJP government in Karnataka and it would complete its term, he said.
"Not only is the government safe for the next three years, but also for five years after the current term is over," he said.
Reacting to Jarkhiholi's remarks, the Congress said it only made it clear that all was not well in the ruling BJP and it was only an attempt to keep its flock together. "If the government was stable, then there was no need for them to try and engineer defections. It is only to send a message to dissident BJP MLAs that there is no threat to the government even if they leave the party," party spokesperson A N Nataraj Gowda told PTI.
Gowda opined that Yediyurappa may be forced to step down within a year. Meanwhile, state Agriculture Minister B C Patil too asserted that there was no threat to the government. Declining to comment on Yatnal's statement, Patil told reporters in Bengaluru that the BJP government is safe.
To a question on the alleged interference of Yediyurappa's son B Y Vijayendra in the government, Patil wondered how it was possible to cut off family ties when one holds an important post in the government. "Why should we conclude their participation in the government is interference?" Patil argued.
He added that everyone has a democratic right to be in politics, which cannot be taken away. Ramesh Jarkiholi and B C Patil were among the key rebels who had spearheaded the dissidence in Congress. They were elected as Congress MLAs in 2018 until they resigned from the Karnataka assembly in June 2019 to join BJP later.
They successfully contested the December 2019 assembly bypolls and became ministers in the Yediyurappa government.