Wary Cong, JD(S) herd MLAs to resorts

Wary Cong, JD(S) herd MLAs to resorts

Bengaluru: Congress MLAs and supporters board a bus outside the KPCC office in Bengaluru on Wednesday. Congress extended the support to JD(S) to form the new Government in Karnataka. (PTI Photo)(PTI5_16_2018_000199A)

Alliance partners, the Congress and JD(S), hit the panic button on Wednesday amid fears that the BJP, which emerged as the single largest party, was out to poach them.

Not wanting to take chances, the Congress packed off its legislators to a resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru. This responsibility was given to
D K Shivakumar, who is considered the party’s Man Friday. His brother and Bangalore Rural MP D K Suresh is assisting him. Two buses were arranged at the party’s headquarters, which legislators boarded after the Congress Legislature Party meeting on Wednesday evening. 

The resort where the legislators will be holed up is the same one where Shivakumar hosted 44 Gujarat MLAs last year, ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls. The trigger for the panic was the absence of some MLA-elects for the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) and JD(S) Legislature Party meetings. 

The Congress with 78 MLAs, the JD(S) with 37, one Bahujan Samaj Party candidate and one Independent have staked claim to form a coalition government with a combined strength of 117. The BJP has 104 legislators. The magic number to form a government is 111, since polling was held for 222 out of 224 Assembly constituencies. At the CLP, the party’s managers were directed to keep a watch on Veerashaiva-Lingayat MLAs amid fear that the BJP was eyeing on pocketing them. 

According to sources, the initial plan was to pack off the legislators to a resort in Kerala. It was later decided to keep them at a resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru so that it will be easier to bring them back to the city if required. 

The JD(S) legislators were camped at a posh hotel in Bengaluru, where Kumaraswamy himself decided to stay to watch guard. 

Developing jitters soon after Governor Vajubhai Vala invited BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa to form the government, the JD(S) too started making preparations to ensure that its elected representatives were kept together.

Not wanting to take any chances, the party started gearing to shift its elected representatives from the private hotel to a resort. Earlier, the plan was to shift the lawmakers outside Bengaluru on Thursday morning. By around 10 pm, a luxury bus was seen parked near the hotel.

Sources said that the JD(S) leaders might be taken to either Kerala or Andhra Pradesh. The BJP, too, decided to keep a watch on its MLAs by holing them in one place after Kumaraswamy threatened that he would also poach “double the number” of MLAs if the saffron party indulged in horse trading. 

“It’s a fact that the BJP is approaching our MLAs. They have started horse trading in a big manner and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is supporting it,” outgoing chief minister Siddaramaiah told reporters. “We have passed a resolution to give the JD(S) our unconditional support and all MLAs are with us.”

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who attended the CLP, recalled a March 2017 Supreme Court judgement according to which he said the claim of the single largest party will not hold good if it does not have sufficient numbers to form government. “I’m sure the Governor cannot overrule or ignore the judgement. While the Congress and the JD(S) have full numbers to form government, no Governor will allow horse trading. That’ll be unconstitutional and undemocratic for any Governor,” he said.