BJP's back off a relief for coalition partners

BJP's back off a relief for coalition partners

NOMINATION: Congress candidates Naseer Ahmed and M C Venugopal (second and third from left respectively) submit their nominations for bypolls to the Legislative Council, in Bengaluru on Monday. (From right) Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, Minister D

The BJP’s decision not to contest the byelections for the three seats in the Legislative Council has come as a big relief to the coalition partners - the JD(S) and the Congress.

The Congress, especially, was jittery that a section of disgruntled legislators who had threatened to rebel, might cross-vote in the byelections.

The BJP’s move not to contest is an indication that the party was not confident of having the numbers to scuttle the bypolls and thereby, rock the government.

Trouble was brewing for the Congress from various quarters, including the Jarhikoli brothers – Ramesh and Satish - in Belagavi district and their supporters. In Ballari district, at least three legislators had dropped indications that they would quit the party and jump to the BJP. Down south, Hoskote MLA M T B Nagaraj, Chikkaballapur MLA K Sudhakar and Mulbagal MLA H Nagesh (Independent, supporting Congress) left for Chennai on Saturday leading to speculations about their future moves. These legislators were either unhappy with the developments in the party or disgruntled that there were not given Cabinet berths.

On Sunday, All India Congress Committee General Secretary and in charge of Karnataka K C Venugopal issued a warning to legislators that “blackmailing” tactics will not be tolerated.

Members of the Legislative Assembly form the electoral college for Council polls and 112 votes are required to win each seat. The present strength of the JD(S)-Congress alliance in the Assembly is 117. The BJP, which emerged as the single largest party in the Assembly polls, has 104 MLAs. Both the Congress and JD(S) leaders were apprehensive that the BJP will scuttle its changes of winning by making a few legislators of the alliance cross-vote. Secret ballot system is followed in the Council polls.

Former chief minister Siddaramaiah has convened the legislature party meeting on September 25 in Bengaluru to discuss the Council bypolls. However, it is now clear that there will be no elections with only three candidates – M C Venugopal, Nazeer Ahmed (both Congress) and H M Ramesh Gowda (JD-S) - filing nomination papers. Monday was the last date to file the nomination papers and the three will be declared elected unopposed, if their papers are found to be in order.

On its part, the BJP too did its best to fish in troubled waters.

A source said the BJP leaders, realising that they did not have the required numbers who are ready to cross-vote, decided not to field candidates for the byelections. There was also an apprehension in the BJP camp that its own MLAs may cross-vote.

However, the party is still hopeful that the coalition government will fall. “They cannot put on hold the Cabinet expansion plans forever. Once that happens there is bound to be dissidence in the alliance and we will go in for the kill,” a BJP leader said.

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