Karnataka’s political crisis worsened on Friday when a jittery Congress shifted its legislators to a resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru to keep a leash on a disgruntled bunch who may have swerved towards the BJP.
All 76 legislators who attended the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting chaired by its leader Siddaramaiah were ferried in two buses from Vidhana Soudha. Of the 80 legislators, four did not show up — Ramesh Jarkiholi, B Nagendra, Mahesh Kumathalli and Umesh Jadhav.
They will get notices seeking an explanation, Siddaramaiah said.
According to sources, at least eight Congress MLAs have committed to the BJP, forcing the party to move them to a resort to keep its flock together. In case the eight Congress MLAs resign, the 118-member Congress-JD(S) coalition will be reduced to a minority.
“All our MLAs and MPs will be kept together in one place to escape the onslaught by the BJP. We will be (in the resort) for as long as it takes,” Siddaramaiah told reporters. “No MLA of ours will join the BJP, but we are moving them to one place as a precaution.” The Congress is desperate to save its coalition with the JD(S) going into the Lok Sabha elections.
Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s 34-member Cabinet has 22 Congress ministers. Now, more than half of Karnataka’s Cabinet will spend the weekend in the resort. Not just that, members of the principal Opposition party will also extend their stay at a luxury hotel in Gurugram.
Jarkiholi, the Congress’ Belagavi strongman believed to be helping the BJP in staging a coup to topple the Congress-JD(S) coalition, and his acolyte Kumathalli, have remained incommunicado. “But Nagendra called up our AICC general secretary K C Venugopal and sought to be excused from the CLP, citing a court case. Jadhav wrote to me saying he is unwell. Still, we will verify their claims,” Siddaramaiah said.
Siddaramaiah claimed the BJP had offered anywhere between Rs 25-Rs 100 crore to lure the legislators. “We will give you proof.
The BJP has offered money and ministerial positions to S Ramappa (Harihar), Anil Chikkamadu (HD Kote), C S Shivalli (Kundgol), Shivaram Hebbar (Yellapur) and Anjali Nimbalkar (Khanapur). They are being misled. The anti-defection law is very stringent,” he said.
The CLP leader accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP national president Amit Shah and Union ministers of their involvement in the effort to topple the government. “Look at how the chowkidar’s party is behaving.
Where are they getting so much money to lure MLAs? Karnataka is the only state they have in the south. They won 17 Lok Sabha seats here. I’m told that an internal survey of the BJP is giving them just three to four seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections against the Congress-JD(S) combine. Shamelessly, Modi and Shah are attempting this,” he said.
The attendance at the CLP meet — 76 out of 80 — was the Congress’ show of solidarity, Siddaramaiah said. “Our team, our party is intact and united.”