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All is Well, Insists JDS-Congress Coalition in Karnataka Amid Rumbles of Discontent

The BJP, which has 105 MLAs in a 224-member Karnataka Assembly, just eight short of a simple majority, claims it has the support of two Independent MLAs and one from the BSP.

Deepa Balakrishnan | CNN-News18deepab18

Updated:May 24, 2019, 8:28 PM IST
All is Well, Insists JDS-Congress Coalition in Karnataka Amid Rumbles of Discontent
Bengaluru: JD(S) Supremo & Former Prime Minister H D Devegowda,Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and State party President Vishwanath (C) during a meeting of JD(S) legislatures at the party office in Bengaluru, Friday, May 24, 2019. (PTI)

Bengaluru: The Janata Dal (Secular) and the Congress in Karnataka are in a huddle, with many from the opposition BJP openly saying they would bring down the incumbent government.

Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy on Friday called an ‘informal’ Cabinet meeting, which was attended by senior ministers of both parties. Afterward, Kumaraswamy and his deputy from the Congress, G Parameshwara, addressed a joint press conference to lay to doubts of the coalition government fall.

“Of course, they (BJP) have got new confidence, with renewed vigour they will do this (facilitate defections),” Congress Minister Priyank Kharge said after the meeting. “But I want to assure the people, this government is here to stay, we will complete our tenure. I don't think the BJP is coming to power any time soon.”

Priyank Kharge is the son of former Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, who suffered his first defeat from Gulbarga constituency.

The BJP won one of the two Assembly seats for which bypolls were held along with the Lok Sabha elections. With that win, the party has 105 MLAs in a 224-member Karnataka Assembly, eight short of a simple majority. The party claims it has the support of two Independent MLAs and another legislator from the Bahujan Samaj Party.

"We still have the numbers. Our government is safe," said Bandeppa Kashempur, a JDS minister.

The win in the Chincholi Assembly bye-election has given the BJP more ammunition to try to “poach” MLAs from both the JDS and the Congress. Many BJP insiders claim they are constantly in touch with at least 10 MLAs from the ruling parties, hinting that it is a matter of time before the coalition government falls. The BJP's infamous 'Operation Kamala' - the process of getting MLAs from rival parties to resign and get re-elected on a BJP ticket to muster up enough numbers -- has worried the ruling coalition.

But the state’s ministers also claim they are confident of keeping their flock together as their MLAs would have no political future in the BJP.

Asked about dissenting voices emerging from the Congress and the JDS, Congress minister UT Khader said, “They may be speaking against our party today, but they also know how the BJP would treat them.”

Priyank Kharge said a win in Chincholi may not guarantee a win everywhere.

"And if they attempt Operation Kamala, does that mean they will pursue these unconstitutional operations? And what makes you think the same techniques can't be used against the BJP? If there is an Operation Lotus, why can't there be an Operation Hand?" Kharge junior asked.

Asked if this meant the Congress could also facilitate defections from the BJP, Kharge said the party would not do anything unconstitutional, "but when it comes to our existence, we will be forced to do what seems right".

But the BJP remains upbeat in the wake of its stellar performance in the Lok Sabha elections and the Assembly bypolls. “It’s a matter of time,” says a party MLA and strategist who played a major role in the Operation Lotus attempted in February.

Since the coalition came to power last year, there have been at least three attempts to facilitate defections by the BJP to wrest power in the state.

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