Bengaluru: Soon after Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy expanded his cabinet, rumblings of rift within the Congress party have begun threatening the Congress-JD(S) coalition government, once again.
Senior Congress leader and MLA Ramesh Jarakiholi who was dropped from the cabinet on Saturday has now threatened to quit the party along with few other legislators.
Addressing the media, a disgruntled Ramesh said, “I had told that I will resign from my seat and I will keep up my word. But the media is portraying me as a villain and others as heroes. Just give me four days and I will prove who the real hero is.”
Ever since the Congress and the JD(S) formed the coalition government in the state, Ramesh has reportedly been unhappy with the treatment from party colleagues. Initially, DK Shivakumar, the water resource minister and a Congress trouble shooter, was the reason for Ramesh’s anger as the former backed MLA Lakshmi Hebbalkar over him in a heated argument.
“He may or may not join the BJP, but he will definitely not continue in Congress,” said one of Ramesh’s close associates. Losing the ministry has stoked his ego and he considers this as a victory for his rival Shivakumar, said another associate.
Earlier, an angry Ramesh had said, “I won’t tolerate if Shivakumar enters Belgaum politics” after which the internal rift between the two widened.
Ramesh Jarakiholi is a strong leader in the Mumbai-Karnataka region and has support of about five MLAs. According to sources, he is in constant touch with those MLAs since he lost his cabinet berth. Ramesh was also occasionally seen with BJP leader and former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa.
The Congress high-command replaced Ramesh with his elder brother Satish Jarakiholi. The party has also given another responsibility to Satish, which is, to control the rebels.
Reacting to Ramesh’s statement, Karnataka Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao asserted that nobody is going to quit the party and that there is ‘no threat’ to either the party or the coalition government. “I will personally talk to Ramesh,” he added.
As per sources, five rebel MLAs are supporting Ramesh. The five lawmakers are Kudligi MLA Nagendra, Kagawada MLA Shreemanth Patil, Hagari Bommanahalli MLA Bheema Naik, Maski MLA Pratap Gowda Patil and Athani MLA Mahesh Kumtalli.
The Congress has 80 MLAs while the JD(S) has 37 MLAs in the Karnataka Assembly. With the support of one BSP MLA and an Independent, the government has a total strength of 119. So, even if six MLAs quit, there is no worry for the coalition, at least for now.