We know how to respond, says Cong as Karnataka govt teeters on the brink
Karnataka’s Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government appeared to be teetering on the brink on Monday after two Congress MLAs, Vijaynagar legislator Anand Singh and Gokak legislator Ramesh Jarkiholi, resigned, narrowing the gap between the ruling alliance and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to just 12 in the 224-member house.
The resignations came on a day when chief minister HD Kumaraswamy of the JD (S) was on a personal visit of the United States but senior leaders of the Congress went into a huddle at former chief minister Siddaramaiah’s residence to take stock of the situation.
The day of high drama started with news that Singh, who made headlines in January after he was beaten up by a fellow Congress legislator, had submitted his resignation to speaker KR Ramesh Kumar, who denied that he had received the letter.
Singh then rushed to Governor Vajubhai Vala’s residence to submit a copy of his resignation.
Speaking to reporters outside Raj Bhavan, Singh said that he was upset over the coalition’s decision to sell 3,666 acres of land to Jindal Steel in Ballari distirct. “There is no question of me falling prey to Operation Lotus of the BJP. I said even earlier that I was ready to resign to uphold the rights of my people,” he said. Operation Lotus refers to the BJP’s efforts to cobble together the numbers to form a government in the state.
A little later, a letter from Jarkiholi was also shared widely after he faxed it to the Speaker. Jarkiholi has been a known dissident for a while and skipped Congress Legislature Party meetings in January, earning censure from party leaders. Later, on April 23 he said that he was waiting for the right time to resign as MLA. His fellow dissident Umesh Jadhav resigned from the Congress in March and went on to successfully contest the Gulbarga Lok Sabha seat as a BJP candidate, defeating Congress stalwart Mallikarjun Kharge. Though the Congress was resigned to losing Jarkiholi, senior leaders were taken aback by Singh’s decision. State water resources minister, who is also in in-charge for Ballari district, DK Shivakumar said he was shocked by the development.
“I can’t believe this has happened. He told me that he will not quit. He might have had personal problems....,” Shivakumar said. “I’m trying to reach him but I am not able to get through to him... ,” he added. The resignations, when accepted, will mean that the coalition’s strength will fall to 116, excluding the speaker.
The coalition had only recently inducted Independent MLAs R Shankar and H Nagesh into the state Cabinet and leaders from both parties were confident till last week that the alliance would face no hurdles in the Monsoon session of the Assembly that is set to begin July 12.
“We will not sit idle either. We know how to respond to this kind of politics,” said Karnataka Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao, hinting that the coalition would woo BJP MLAs.
Deputy chief minister G Parameshwara said the Congress would speak to its MLAs and try and address their concerns to ensure that more do not quit. “We will also try and convince Anand Singh to change his mind because he is our party member after all.” Former chief minister and BJP state president BS Yeddyurappa said that though that his party had no hand in this, he is aware that “there are 20 dissidents in the coalition”. “We will have to wait and see what they do and take a call on whether to stake a claim to form the government after that,” he added.
With 105 MLAs, the BJP will require 13 more ruling alliance legislators to resign to achieve a simple majority. A senior BJP leader said there were at least six other MLAs from the Congress who were willing to jump ship. However, the party had taken all precautions this time to not get embroiled in a controversy as has happened in its previous attempts to form the government. The BJP leader added that if things are different now it is because of the massive victory of the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls. “They (ruling party legislators) know that the coalition cannot survive and really, what future do they have in their parties? I’m sure they would like to join the winning side.”
The BJP won 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state and 303 of the 543 across India.