The new year has not kicked off well for the Congress-Janata Dal-Secular (JDS) government in Karnataka. Amidst allegations that the Bharatiya Janata Party has been indulging in poaching MLAs, the Congress on Friday has called for a meeting of its legislators for a show of hands, attempting to identify turncoats with a warning that absentees will be expelled from the party.
The Congress has been lately going hammer and tongs, alleging that the Bharatiya Janata Party was indulging in horse-trading and were luring three of its MLAs to camp at a Mumbai hotel in the “company of some BJP leaders as part of BJP’s “Operation Lotus” which is aimed at ousting the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress government in the state.
Amidst rumours of few Congress MLAs, out of its total strength of 80, still missing, who are expected to be in Mumbai, former chief minister and CLP chief Siddaramaiah have threatened proceedings under the anti-defection laws against those who don’t attend the Friday meeting.
However, one of the alleged dissenters, B Nagendra, who arrived in Bangaluru to attend a court hearing, rubbished speculations that he had been poached by the BJP, but was unsure if he would attend Friday’s meeting.
“I have come to the city for a court hearing. There is no operation (to poach Congress MLAs). I went to Mumbai for personal reasons as I have business there. I keep going there often,” Nagendra said, insisting that he had never been out of contact.
Meanwhile, the state Congress president, Dinesh Gundu Rao speaking regarding the notice issued to the MLAs to attend the Friday meeting, said that the party had sought a legal opinion on the powers of the legislature party chief to issue such a notice and only after that had they gone ahead with the move.
A senior Congress leader, who wished to maintain anonymity, said the dissidents had been thwarted in their attempt to muster more support. “From the beginning, it was clear that there were at best around five people who would even think of such a move (switching sides),” this leader confirmed. What worked in the party’s favour was the fact that the dissidents could not muster much support. “The problem is that no legislator is in a position to resign and face the people once again for a bye-election. This is why we decided to force their hand in the matter and issued the notice to attend the meeting,” the Congress leader said.
The crisis for the Congress-JDs government increased when the rumours of four MLAs resigning, started doing the rounds. After two independent MLAs withdrew their support to the Congress-JD(S) coalition government, there were speculations that at least 12-13 Congress MLAs might resign in the coming days bringing the house strength to 106.
Though on the face, Kumaraswamy had claimed that his government is stable and intact maintaining that he was in touch with the Congress MLAs who are in Mumbai and all is well, the jitters of the coalition government were apparent as there were reports that the Congress is trying to lure BJP MLAs by offering them a ministerial berth, unconditionally. BJP had alleged that Congress is trying to poach BJP MLAs so as to stabilize the collapsing government.
Fearing poaching the BJP had positioned its Karnataka MLAs in a hotel in Gurugram. As reported by Republic TV, some BJP MLAs have claimed that Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy is trying to get in touch with them and poach them.
Senior BJP leader, CT Ravi while addressing a press conference said, “If the Congress still has any self-respect it should suspend or dismiss the dissidents.” Taking a jibe at the stitched government, Ravi furthered, “Dissidence is within your party, and, of course, we will add fuel to that fire, that’s politics. But if your MLAs do not respect you, then don’t blame us.”
Animosity between the three principal parties in the state has been at a feverish pitch.
Since the time Congress has stitched up an awkward alliance with the JDS, despite pretending to be together from the outside, the two have been acrimonious with each other. Similarly, evident animosities prevail between these two and the BJP.
While on one hand, what can be called a severe display of ill will, recently, the Congress MP from Karnataka had warned Amit Shah of facing a more graver disease than swine flu (H1N1 flu) if Karnataka govt is destabilised, on the other hand, Kumaraswamy’s predicaments with the Congress laid bare when he claimed that he was being treated like a clerk instead of a chief minister.
However, this was not the first time Chief Minister Kumaraswamy has lamented over his discomfort to work with the Congress party. Earlier in July, expressing his unhappiness over the coalition government, Kumaraswamy had cried saying he was unhappy and swallowing the poison of a coalition government.
Kumaraswamy also launched an attack on ally partner Congress over seat-sharing arrangement for the Lok Sabha elections. He said that ‘Congress should not treat JD(S) like third-grade citizens’.