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Sunday, Sep 15, 2019

Karnataka Congress MLAs moved to resort as 4 skip meeting

Four MLAs — Ramesh Jarkiholi, B Nagendra, Umesh Jadhav and Mahesh Kumathahalli — gave the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting a miss

india Updated: Jan 19, 2019 00:05 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Congress MLAs move to Eagleton resort after CLP meeting on January 18.
Congress MLAs move to Eagleton resort after CLP meeting on January 18.(ANI Photo/Twitter)

The Congress on Friday took its lawmakers to a resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru after four of them skipped a key party meeting, according to senior party leaders.

Former chief minister Siddaramaiah announced the move after four MLAs — Ramesh Jarkiholi, B Nagendra, Umesh Jadhav and Mahesh Kumathahalli — gave the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting a miss.

The move is seen as an attempt to thwart a reported rebellion within the party and an alleged attempt by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to topple the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government.

Earlier, Siddaramaiah, who is also the CLP leader, had made it clear that those skipping the meeting will face action under the anti-defection law, which disallows MPs/ MLAs to switch parties after elections (unless they make up more than a third of the party’s strength) and make the members follow the whips issued by their party.

Addressing the press after the CLP meeting, Siddaramaiah said notices would be issued to Jarkiholi and Kumathahalli seeking their response. In the case of Jadhav and Nagendra, their reasons for not attending would be checked, he said. Jadhav had sent a message over fax to Siddaramaiah, saying he was unwell and would be unable to attend the meeting. “I’m issuing notices to the absentees and seek their response. Once they respond we will discuss with party president,” Siddaramaiah added.

“This meeting was called because media has been speculating that many MLAs were deserting us. We have said that nobody has gone with the BJP and that they are the ones creating such rumours. This has been proven true because all the MLAs, apart from the absentees, have attended. Of 80 MLAs, 76 were present and one nominated member,” Siddaramaiah said.

Congress leader and state minister DK Shivakumar confirmed that the MLAs will be taken to Eagleton resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru.

This is the same resort where Gujarat Congress MLAs were kept in 2017 during a high-voltage Rajya Sabha election that finally saw senior party leader Ahmed Patel emerge victorious.

Explaining the reason why Congress MLAs were being taken to a resort, Siddaramaiah said, “There is a drought and we have to discuss that as well as the parliamentary election. Our MLAs will not go with them [BJP] but as a pre-emptive measure we will do that.”

On Tuesday, the Congress-JD (S) government in Karnataka had received a jolt after two Independent MLAs, who had been part of the government, withdrew support. With this, the strength of the coalition is down to 118 in a house of 224 members — 80 of the Congress, including speaker KR Ramesh Kumar, 37 of the JD(S) and a lone MLA of the Bahujan Samaj Party. Even without the four MLAs, the coalition would have 114 lawmakers on its side, a wafer-thin majority.

Siddaramaiah also alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and other central leaders were trying to destabilise the Karnataka government.

“They [BJP] won 17 seats in the last Lok Sabha polls [in south India]. And according to information I have received, they have conducted a survey that tells them that they will win only four. For this reason, shamelessly, they have instigated this. Hence, to show our unity and strength and to show that speculation was wrong, we have showcased our unity. Our party is intact, united,” the former CM said.

He also alleged that the BJP had offered money to the tune of ₹50-70 crore to the MLAs and promised to make them ministers. “I have proof... They don’t know that our anti defection law is very stringent,” Siddaramaiah said.

Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru, the party’s general secretary KC Venugopal said the Congress had done nothing wrong in taking its MLAs to a resort. “The MLAs will be near Bengaluru, which is the capital of the state. So there is no question of taking them away,” he said.

Responding to the developments, senior BJP leader KS Eshwarappa said it was amply clear that there is a rebellion within that party. “As many as 23 MLAs attended the meeting today and they did so under duress,” Eshwarappa said, although he did not specify how he got that information. “It is clear that this government is set to fall in a day or two.

First Published: Jan 18, 2019 23:48 IST