Four Karnataka Congress MLAs refuse to budge despite issuing whip
The Budget Session of the Karnataka assembly got off to a turbulent start on Wednesday after governor Vajubhai Vala was forced to cut short his address to a joint sitting of both Houses amid protests by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Vala was only able to read out four pages of the 22-page speech after BJP legislators entered the well of the assembly. After pleading with BJP members to get back to their seats, Vala said, “I will conclude my speech if this continues”. As the protests did not subside, the governor read out the final page of the speech and left.
With chief minister HD Kumaraswamy set to present the state budget on Friday, the ruling Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition stayed on the tenterhooks as four rebel MLAs – Ramesh Jarkiholi, Umesh Jadhav, Mahesh Kumathahalli, and B Nagendra – failed to turn up despite the Congress issuing a whip on Tuesday asking them to be present through the session.
The four MLAs have refused to bow to the party’s diktat, having already skipped a Congress legislature party meeting last month. While all four responded to CLP chief and former CM Siddaramaiah after he issued them a show-cause notice, they have not presented themselves before him to explain their absence.
Apart from those four, absconding MLA JN Ganesh, who allegedly assaulted colleague Anand Singh at a resort on the outskirts of the city last month, too, did not turn up even as the police stayed on the lookout for him. Another MLA, BC Patil, also gave the Congress some nervous moments after he failed to turn up and did not answer calls by his leaders either.
A senior Congress leader said that while the party had insisted that the legislators be present through the session, action would be taken against the MLAs only if they failed to turn up when the Finance Bill came up for a vote.
“We expect that the BJP will ask for a division of votes on the Finance Bill. To forestall this we have worded our whip in such a way that there is no room for manoeuvre,” the leader said. “At this moment, we still expect them to come back because they will invite action under the anti-defection laws if they fail to come.”
Siddaramaiah insisted that no MLAs were missing. “Nobody is missing; no MLA is missing,” he told reporters as he left the assembly.
Although some BJP leaders said the party would approach Vala to submit a memorandum claiming that the government was in a minority, former CM and Karnataka BJP president B S Yeddyurappa insisted that the party would not do that.
“We protested against the governor’s speech because this government has lost the confidence of the people,” he said. “There is no question of us moving a no-confidence motion or meeting the governor. This government will fall by itself and as a responsible opposition with 104 MLAs, we will work towards that.”
A decision on the future course of action, Yeddyurappa said, would be taken on Thursday. Another BJP leader said that the party was likely to disrupt the budget speech of Kumaraswamy.