Rebel reachout fails, coalition seeks to buy more time

Rebel reachout fails, coalition seeks to buy more time

Congress leader Ramalinga Reddy. DH Photo/S K Dinesh

The crisis-hit Congress-JD(S) coalition is finding it increasingly difficult to woo the rebel legislators — 15 of them — ahead of Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s trust vote scheduled for Monday.  

The coalition, therefore, appears to be gearing up to raise more Constitutional and legal issues to bide time and delay the floor test. 

On Saturday, senior Congress leader Ramalinga Reddy held talks with JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda. Reddy withdrew his resignation earlier this week, and the coalition is said to be banking on him to lure back other Bengaluru MLAs S T Somashekar, Byrathi Basavaraj and Munirathna. 

But hope looks bleak. “I spoke to Somashekar on Sunday last. I have since been trying to phone him and Munirathna, but haven’t got through to them,” Reddy said. 

Congress’ D K Shivakumar, who was the party’s first responder to the crisis by rushing to convince the rebels to withdraw their resignation, said the BJP had detained the legislators at gunpoint. “They are not allowed to talk and their phones have been snatched away. Six of them are in Lonavla and the rest somewhere else. They have police protection. What do you do?” he asked. 

Kumaraswamy and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Dinesh Gundu Rao have approached the Supreme Court seeking clarity on the July 17 interim order allowing the rebel MLAs to opt out of the trust vote. 

The BJP has interpreted the order to the effect that the whip will not apply to the 15 MLAs. But the coalition wants the whip to apply to them so when they do not turn up, they will be liable for disqualification, which means they cannot hold ministerial positions for up to six months. The strategy is to delay the process till the point where the rebels develop cold feet, a Congress leader said.  

But Shivakumar justified the delay in taking up the trust vote. “We are not buying time. Atal Bihari Vajpayee got 10 days’ time,” he said. 

The coalition also plans to raise the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission as part of its effort to stonewall Governor Vajubhai R Vala’s order for the floor test. The Commission has recommended that the Governor can ask the Chief Minister to take a floor test within a “reasonable” time, which can mean up to 60 days in special circumstances. And the coalition argues that this is a special circumstance. 

The Congress has convened its legislature party meeting on Sunday to discuss Monday’s confidence motion.