A political crisis is brewing in Karnataka where leaders of the Janata Dal (S) and the BJP are sparring openly.
On Thursday, BJP ministers staged a sit-in inside the chambers of Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, threatening not to participate in a Cabinet meeting. After keeping the CM waiting for over 90 minutes, they reluctantly joined it. But this was only after an assurance that their objections would be heard by Kumaraswamy at a meeting of the coordination committee (of the coalition partners) on Friday.
The spat mirrors the spiralling tension between the coalition partners ahead of the D-day for transfer of power, on October 3. The main provocation was a statement by Kumaraswamy that the JD(S)'s secular image has been dented by the party's alliance with the BJP. There have also been conflicting statements on handing over power to the BJP at the end of Kumaraswamy's term in October.
Besides, a unilateral decision on the appointment of a member to the Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC) has added to the friction between the two parties.
"They (the JD-S leaders) are testing our patience through unilateral appointments and contradictory statements on allowing Yediyurappa to head the government for the next 20 months. We are also aware that some of them are talking to the Congress as an alternative." said a senior BJP minister.
Deputy Chief Minister Yediyurappa told reporters he would not comment on the change of guard or on differences within the coalition. The chief minister, for his part, played down the incident, saying: "The BJP ministers were taking rest in my chamber."
The row has erupted at a time when 89 legislators have gone on a two-week tour of China. The second batch of 75 legislators are slated to leave for China on August 27. The tour has been organised by S. Krishna, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, to study developmental models adopted by the Communist nation.
On the eve of their departure on Wednesday, all the legislators were given an 80-page information book on China. The China trip will cost the state exchequer close to Rs 3 crore.
However, the Speaker defended the expense, saying each legislator gets Rs 2 lakh a year for a study tour in the nation. This year, MLAs are using this money for an international tour, he said.