Cong adopts carrot-stick approach to win back rebels

Cong adopts carrot-stick approach to win back rebels

Congress legislators, led by CLP leader Siddaramaiah, leave Vivanta by Taj after the CLP meeting on Monday.

The Congress is employing two ways to shore up numbers for the impending floor test - unsettle the rebels through the anti-defection law and by matching offers some of them may have received from the BJP.

From 119, including the Speaker, the Congress-JD(S) coalition is down to 101 after 16 MLAs tendered their resignation and two Independents withdrew support. The BJP’s tally stands at 107, including the support of the two Independents. Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy will have to go up from 101 to 108, to surpass the saffron party’s strength and win the confidence motion. 

The Congress is looking to unsettle and unnerve the rebels, according to two ministers.

“We achieved this to an extent with M T B Nagaraj. Although we had our doubts, we got him to say he was ready to withdraw his resignation. But when he flew off to Mumbai, we exposed him,” one of the ministers explained.

Apparently, Congress is trying to make the rebels feel the heat of the anti-defection law. On July 10, the party moved a petition seeking disqualification of Pratapgouda Patil, B C Patil, Shivaram Hebbar, S T Somashekhar, Byrati Basavaraj, Anand Singh, R Roshan Baig and Muniratna. The disqualification petition against Ramesh Jarkiholi and Mahesh Kumathalli is pending since February this year.

Most of these MLAs submitted their resignation in the proper format after the disqualification petition was moved against them. Hence, the party says the disqualification petition will take precedence over their resignation. “We believe there’s a sense of anxiety among the rebels. They’ve been holed up for nearly 10 days now and nothing has happened yet,” another minister pointed out. 

Driving home the message, Congress’ Water Resources Minister DK Shivakumar said, “No one wants to be disqualified or face fresh elections. The anti-defection law is very strong. All members will return and vote for us.”

The party is also counting on the loyalty of some of the rebels who have been associated with the Congress throughout their career. “We are confident that the likes of senior leaders Ramalinga Reddy and Roshan Baig will support the coalition. We are also in touch with S T Somashekhar, Byrati Basavaraj and Muniratna. We’re telling them that we will match whatever offer or incentive they have been offered by the BJP,” a leader from Shivakumar’s camp said.

In all, however, Congress very much realises that the government is on the verge of falling.