Show up, Congress tells 'missing' legislators

Show up, Congress tells 'missing' legislators

Ramesh Jarkiholi

The Congress will issue one more notice to four of its disgruntled legislators asking them to physically appear before the leadership, even as the party is wary of any trouble they may pose during the upcoming legislature session.

Gokak MLA and former minister Ramesh Jarkiholi, Athani MLA Mahesh Kumthalli, Chincholi MLA Umesh Jadhav and Bellary MLA B Nagendra came under the party’s scanner after they skipped a crucial Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting held on January 18. Their absence reinforced speculation that they might jump ship and join the BJP.

Three of them — Ramesh, Kumthalli and Nagendra — responded to the show-cause notice, citing personal reasons for their absence while claiming allegiance to the Congress.  

“Another notice will be issued to all four because so far, they have not appeared before us in person. Three of them have responded only by letter,” KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao said.

He added, “All of them will have to physically appear before the CLP leader and explain why they were absent,” KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao told reporters. “It is okay if they weren’t around for a couple of days. But if they are missing for weeks on end, then there is a problem,” he added.

The budget session of the legislature is set to commence on February 6 with Governor Vajubhai R Vala addressing both houses. It is widely speculated that the Congress-JD(S) coalition could face a no-confidence motion during the session. With its fingers crossed, the BJP is said to be banking on at least seven disgruntled Congress legislators, including the four mentioned above. The saffron party plans to convince them to write to the Governor stating they have lost confidence in Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s leadership.

In that eventuality, the total strength of the 118-member coalition in the Assembly will fall below the required majority figure of 113, thereby mandating the Governor to ask Kumaraswamy to prove his majority on the floor of the House.

According to a senior Congress leader, the party is keen to hold one-on-one talks with the four MLAs who have not been seen with top leaders for several weeks now.

The Congress is desperate to keep its coalition with the JD(S) intact going into the Lok Sabha elections, and state leaders are under pressure from the party’s high command to thwart any attempts, from within or outside, to destabilise the government.