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BJP, Congress-JD(S) trade charges ahead of floor test in Karnataka assembly

Reports of missing legislators, allegations of central investigative agencies being used, claims of poaching attempts, and rumours of enticing allurements on offer dominated the day ahead of the Karnataka assembly floor test scheduled for Saturday.

Karnataka Elections 2018 Updated: May 18, 2018 23:42 IST
Venkatesha Babu
Venkatesha Babu
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Karnataka,Karnataka floor test,BJP
Congress activists stage a demonstration in Kolkata against the Karnataka governor's invitation to BJP to form the government.(PTI Photo)

Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress combine expressed confidence a day ahead of the Supreme Court-ordered floor test to judge whether Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa of the BJP indeed has the majority he claimed in a letter to the governor.

Reports of missing legislators, allegations of central investigative agencies being used, claims of poaching attempts, and rumours of enticing allurements on offer dominated the day in Bengaluru as the drama surrounding the hung verdict to the Karnataka elections continued for the fourth day.

The Congress released an audio recording in the evening, claiming mining baron and a former BJP minister Janardhana Reddy could be heard offering money and a ministry to its Raichur Rural MLA Basangouda Daddal. The Congress said this is an example of the brazen manner in which the BJP is trying to lure MLAs to its side to win a majority on the floor of the assembly.

Union Minister for HRD Prakash Javadekar, at the forefront of the BJP’s efforts to form a government in the state, rubbished the allegation, and said the audio was a fake and a product of Congress’s dirty tricks department. He added that the voice on the recording needs to be forensically examined. Adding that the BJP did not need to do such things to win the motion of confidence, he expressed confidence that the Yeddyurappa government would prove its majority on the floor of the house.

Earlier in the morning, the leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, the Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged that the party’s Vijaynagar constituency MLA-elect Anand Singh was being held “captive” by the Narendra Modi government. Former CM Siddaramaiah claimed that Anand Singh had been abducted and the Enforcement Directorate was being used against him.

The Congress Party’s MLA-elect from Maski Pratapagouda Patil is also said to be missing. Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president G Parameshwara claimed that Patil had signed the letter in support of JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy. Subsequently, though, it is believed that Patil slipped away before all Congress legislators were herded into a resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru first and then taken to Hyderabad from where they are expected to return for Saturday’s vote.

In a day filled with minute-by-minute turn of events, reports emerged that the JD(S) had convinced a BJP MLA, Preetham Gowda ,who has been elected from Hassan constituency, to support Kumaraswamy. The JD(S) won six of the seven assembly seats in Hassan with Preetham being the exception. The Hassan Lok Sabha seat is represented by JD(S) patriarch HD Deve Gowda and the district is considered a stronghold of the party. The BJP spokesperson S Prakash denied that Preetham had switched sides: “All our 104 MLAs are intact. If anything, we will see more legislators support us on the floor of the house. Preetham is also related to our senior leader C T Ravi. Why would he switch?”

There was also some confusion over the current stand of the independents. The two independent MLAs R Shankar from Ranibennur and H Nagesh from Mulbagal who were said to be with Congress-JD(S) alliance were said to have left Hyderabad on their own late on Friday evening. HT couldn’t independently establish their whereabouts.

Senior political analyst S Mahadev Prakash said this current environment of poaching and counter-poaching marked a new low in Karnataka politics. “There is no clarity on who is with whom. All are claims being made by the respective parties. Till the vote on motion of confidence does take place, we will not know who stands on which side.”

The Congress also criticised governor Vaijubhai Vala’s decision to make KG Bopaiah the pro-tem speaker. Bopaiah shot into the limelight when he controversially disqualified 10 BJP MLAs rebelling against their own chief minister BS Yeddyurappa in 2010. His act was subsequently criticised by the Supreme Court, which said the speaker had acted hastily in an attempt to ensure the continuance of Yeddyurappa’s government.

First Published: May 18, 2018 23:40 IST