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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

Will they, won’t they? Suspense on rebel Congress MLAs continues in Karnataka

Suspense continued to haunt the Karnataka Congress on whether its “missing” dissident leaders would attend the legislature party meeting even though former CM Siddaramaiah has threatened proceedings under anti-defection laws against those who don’t attend the meeting.

india Updated: Jan 17, 2019 19:15 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
CLP leader Siddaramaiah had made it clear that proceedings under anti-defection laws would be initiated against those who failed to turn up for Friday’s meeting.
CLP leader Siddaramaiah had made it clear that proceedings under anti-defection laws would be initiated against those who failed to turn up for Friday’s meeting.(PTI)
         

Suspense continued to haunt the Karnataka Congress on whether its “missing” dissident leaders would attend the Congress Legislature Party meeting or not, even though former chief minister and CLP chief Siddaramaiah has threatened proceedings under the anti-defection laws against those who don’t attend the Friday meeting.

One of the alleged dissidents, B Nagendra, reached Bengaluru on Thursday to attend a court hearing and rubbished speculation that he had been poached by the opposition BJP. “I have come to the city for a court hearing. There is no operation. I went to Mumbai for personal reasons as I have business there. I keep going there often,” he said, insisting that he was never out of contact with the party leaders.

“I don’t have any reason to be unhappy. Regarding the CLP meeting, I have to see what happens with the court. If I have a hearing tomorrow as well it might be difficult to attend,” he added.

The arrival on Wednesday of one of the alleged dissidents, LBP Bheema Naik, had boosted the Congress’s morale and after the notice for the meeting was issued, party leaders said any dissidents were provided with a fait accompli, as Siddaramaiah had made it clear that proceedings under the anti-defection laws would be initiated against those who failed to turn up.

State Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao told HT that the party had sought a legal opinion on the powers of the legislature party chief to issue such a notice and only after that had they gone ahead with the move.

“The legislature party chief has all the powers to issue such a notice. Let us see what happens on Friday,” he said.

With this, said a senior Congress leader, who did not wish to be named, the dissident faction had been thwarted in its attempt to muster more support. “From the beginning it was clear that there were at best around five people who would even think of such a move,” the leader said.

However, what worked in the party’s favour was the fact that the dissidents could not muster much support. “The problem is that no legislator is in a position to resign and face the people once again for a by-election. This is why we decided to force their hand in the matter and issued the notice to attend the meeting,” the leader said.

On the same day, some BJP leaders returned to the city, even as a majority of its legislators from the state continued to stay at a resort in Gurugram. Senior leader CT Ravi said that no legislator was being kept captive, even as he agreed that his party had “fuelled the fire” of dissidence.

Addressing a press conference, Ravi said, “If the Congress still has any self respect it should suspend or dismiss the dissidents. On one hand they said nobody had switched sides and on the other they celebrate the supposed return of MLAs.”

Meanwhile, the BJP was criticised by former prime minister and JD(S) chief HD Deve Gowda for keeping its legislators away from the state even as 156 of the state’s 176 taluks were facing drought. Responding to this, Ravi said, it was true that the BJP legislators had not gone to Gurugram to study the drought.

Ravi said the BJP was not trying anything new in the state. “The politics that you indulged in, in the past is what we have done,” he said. “Dissidence is within your party, and, of course, we will add fuel to that fire, that’s politics. But if your MLAs do not respect you, then don’t blame us,” Ravi said in a jibe aimed at the coalition.

Animosity between the three principal parties in the state has been at a fever pitch, especially over the past seven months. Senior Congress leader and its MP in the Rajya Sabha BK Hariprasad came in for criticism after he said BJP national president Amit Shah was suffering from Swine Flu because he sought to destabilise the Karnataka government.

“Shah is famous for such conspiracies, and already six legislators have been kidnapped and kept in Mumbai. The BJP and RSS workers are guarding them. But since some of the legislators came back, he fell ill,” Hariprasad said. “It is not any ordinary fever that he got, it is swine flu. If you try and destabilise Karnataka’s government you will get not just swine flu but also all other kinds of sickness.”

Responding to the comment, state BJP spokesperson S Prakash said the statement on another person’s ill health showed the Congress MP’s sick mindset. “Is this the campaign of love that Congress president Rahul Gandhi spoke about? Even Sonia Gandhi is ill but we always wish her a speedy recovery and good health, this shows the difference in our cultures,” he said.

First Published: Jan 17, 2019 19:12 IST

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