Bengaluru: Political turmoil continues to haunt the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular), the coalition partners in Karnataka, with 12 more of their MLAs submitting their resignations on Saturday.
In a shocking move, long-time Congress loyalist and the party’s senior-most leader Ramalinga Reddy also joined hands with the rebels. Congress leaders now feel that if they are able to get Reddy back, they can hold the government together.
Earlier in the day, at least 11 MLAs reached the Vidhana Soudha and submitted their resignations to Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar. Of these, three were JDS MLAs while eight belonged to the Congress.
Ramalinga Reddy, Ramesh Jarakiholi, Mahesh Kumatalli, Shivaram Hebbar, BC Patil, Muniratna, ST Somashekhar, Byrathi Basavaraj, Sowmya Reddy, Pratap Gowda Patil are from the Congress and Narayana Gowda, Gopalaiah and H Vishwanath are from the JDS. Singh had resigned on Monday.
As the rebels jetted off to Mumbai after putting in their resignation papers, the Congress and JDS leaders have a strategic time-out of three days to tackle the situation.
Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal on Saturday evening rushed to Bengaluru hours after news of the resignations came in. Congress Party Legislators’ leader Siddaramaiah met Venugopal, Water Resource Minister DK Shivakumar, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, and a few other leaders at his residence to discuss the future course of action.
During the meeting, former chief minister Siddaramaiah reportedly expressed his anger at Parameshwara. According to sources, Siddaramaiah blamed the deputy chief minister for the disaster.
“Ramalinga Reddy is the senior-most MLA from Bengaluru. I have always told Parameshwara to discuss with him while taking any decision related to Bengaluru. But he did not listen and even told others that he is also a senior leader and does not need guidance from Ramalinga Reddy,” Siddaramaiah reportedly said.
While the duo reportedly exchanged words at the meeting, Venugopal managed to calm them down.
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy who is heading back to Bengaluru from the United States, sent his brother and Public Works Department Minister HD Revanna to attend the meeting with Siddaramaiah.
But none of the leaders appear to have an idea about how to stop the rebels as three senior leaders — Ramesh Jarkiholi, AH Vishwanath and Ramalinga Reddy — themselves are leading the team. It will not be easy to persuade the three veteran politicians to change their decision. This is the reason behind Siddaramaiah’s anguish directed at Parameshwara. According to sources, Siddaramaiah would have been able to stop at least seven to eight lawmakers from resigning if Ramalinga Reddy was not in the group.
Ramalinga Reddy is highly popular among politicians in Bengaluru and commands respect across the political spectrum in the state. Rebel leaders ST Somashekhar, Byrathi Basavaraj, Munirathna and K Gopalaiah, who pay heed to Reddy, can come back in the Congress fold if its leaders are able to convince Reddy to not resign.
Before the rebel lawmakers left for Mumbai on Saturday evening, Vishwanath addressed the media.
“Fourteen MLAs from the Congress and the JD(S), including Anand Singh, have submitted their resignation from the Assembly to the Speaker. We also brought the matter to the notice of the governor," he said after meeting Governor Vajubhai Vala.
Anand Singh had submitted his resignation to the Speaker earlier this week.
The BJP, which has come under attack from the Congress-JDS combine for allegedly trying to destabilise the government by luring their MLAs, clarified it had nothing to do with the resignation.
State BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa said his party would take an "appropriate decision at the appropriate time".
Asked if the BJP, the single largest party, would make a move to stake a claim before the Governor, Yeddyurappa said, “We will not do such things. We will wait and watch the developments that are unfolding.”
JD(S) patriarch HD Deve Gowda said he was preparing for the upcoming local body elections and that the ball was now in the Speaker’s court.
Siddaramaiah, however, said that the episode has not ended as the resignations are yet to be accepted yet. He asserted that the government in Karnataka would continue.
"How will it (government) be unstable? The resignations have yet to be accepted... it has not been accepted yet. We are trying to contact them (rebel MLAs)," said Siddaramaiah.
Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar, who hurriedly left red-faced after resignations flooded his office, said, “I will look into the matter on Tuesday. I will act as per law.”
Congress trouble shooter DK Shivakumar tried to stop the rebels, but nobody yielded to his efforts. Afterwards, Shivakumar blamed BJP leaders.
“The BJP is pretending that they don’t know anything, but we know what they are doing. We have a list of builders and realtors whom the BJP contacted for money. They are mobilising funds for the operation. Let’s see what happens,” Shivakumar said, adding that no one can hold back a lawmaker if he or she has decided to resign.
Kumaraswamy, who is expected to reach Bengaluru by noon on Sunday, has called a Cabinet meet on Monday. Siddaramaiah, Shivakumar and MB Patil are now trying to reach out to the rebels over the phone and offer them Cabinet berths to placate them.
According to sources, Venugopal and Siddaramaiah have told Parameshwara to step down as Bengaluru Urban Development Minister and give his portfolio to Ramalinga Reddy. The Congress is hoping that giving Reddy a Cabinet berth may lead to at least five rebel MLAs going back on their decision to resign from the Assembly.
Congress hits out at BJP
The Congress accused the BJP of trying to bring down its coalition government in Karnataka by "buying" MLAs.
"MLAs are being bought in broad daylight. We deprecate the efforts of the BJP to buy over legislators, to pressurise legislators, to bring down an elected government in Karnataka," said Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, asserting that the BJP has made such moves in other states in the past as well.
However, the BJP rejected the allegation and said the "feud" between the ruling allies is behind the fresh political instability.
"The reality is that there is a battle for political supremacy within the Congress as well as between it and the JD(S). Siddaramaiah does not want the Kumaraswamy government to continue. This ugly internal politics are behind the instability," said BJP media head and Rajya Sabha MP Anil Baluni.