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Friday, Aug 16, 2019

Back in Mumbai, rebel Karnataka MLA says resignation stands

MLA MTB Nagaraj flew to Mumbai about 12 hours after he had said outside former chief minister Siddaramaiah’s house that he would return to the Congress fold and convince another rebel, K Sudhakar, to return to the grand old party as well.

india Updated: Jul 15, 2019 07:25 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Housing minister and Congress MLA MTB Nagaraj
Housing minister and Congress MLA MTB Nagaraj(Twitter/MTBNagaraj)

MTB Nagaraj on Sunday returned to Mumbai on a chartered plane and rejoined 12 other rebel lawmakers of Karnataka’s ruling Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) coalition at a five-star hotel there.

The return came a day after he promised to return to the Congress and convince another rebel, K Sudhakar, to follow suit as the coalition faces a trust vote in the state assembly this week.

Thirteen Congress and three JD(S) lawmakers have submitted their resignation letters to speaker KR Ramesh Kumar.

The strength of the state assembly would be reduced to 209 if the 16 resignations are accepted. In such a scenario, a coalition or a party would need 105 members to form or retain a government. The coalition’s strength would be reduced to 101 while the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 105 lawmakers.

In Mumbai, Nagaraj maintained there was no question of him withdrawing his resignation. “I said Sudhakar and I had resigned together and that I would try and convince him to take back his resignation, and that I would do so only if he agreed. Even now I will speak to Sudhakar and come to a decision. There is no question of me taking back my resignation,” he said.

Another rebel Congress lawmaker, ST Somashekar Gowda, echoed him in Mumbai. “We are together and we would not take back our resignations,” he said

In Bengaluru, Congress leaders went into a huddle after Nagaraj’s exit. Congress’s troubleshooter and minister, D K Shivakumar, who held talks with Nagaraj on Saturday, asked the BJP to own up to its ambitions and admit that it is behind these resignations.

He said BJP leader and former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa’s secretary, Santosh, was seen near the aircraft that Nagaraj took to Mumbai. Shivakumar added that BJP leader and former deputy CM R Ashok was also seen with Nagaraj at Bengaluru’s HAL airport. “BJP had claimed it was not involved. However, it is behind this operation. If it has self-respect, let its leaders admit they are thirsting for power and are behind this,” he said.

Later in the day, top leaders of the coalition, including chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, met Congress rebel Ramalinga Reddy, who resigned last week. A former home minister, Reddy refused to reveal his next move and insisted he would only speak about politics after Monday.

The BJP, too, held a meeting of its legislature party at a resort here to discuss the scenario and to prepare for the trust vote. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a BJP leader said the party was certain that the coalition would lose the trust vote.

“There were a few nerves after Nagaraj’s statement on Saturday. However, those fears were allayed on Sunday. Of course, everything now depends on the Supreme Court’s hearing on Tuesday and what it decides about the delays caused by the Speaker,” the BJP leader said.

Kumar has said he will approve the resignations only after the lawmakers personally meet him and convince him of the voluntary nature of resignations.

Two independent legislators, who were made ministers recently to provide stability, have also quit the coalition and withdrawn their support to it.

There was no clarity on former minister R Shankar, who had agreed to merge his Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party with the Congress after he was inducted in the state Cabinet last month. According to Congress, a merger letter has been given to the speaker and he has accepted it.

A Congress leader said that Shankar was likely to get disqualified as he had submitted a letter to governor Vajubhai Vala pledging his support to the BJP.

Another Congress minister said there was still hope.

“None of the rebels have blocked communication with us. They are still in touch with us and are trying desperately to get the best deal from both sides,” the minister said.

The BJP reiterated that the coalition has lost majority and demanded that Kumaraswamy resign immediately or seek a trust vote on Monday.

First Published: Jul 14, 2019 20:36 IST

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