Bengaluru: As the JD(S)-Congress coalition government in Karnataka teetered on the brink of collapse, all the ministers quit Monday to give a free hand to Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy to reshuffle his Cabinet to include rebel MLAs while two Independent legislators also withdrew their support.
There was no immediate word from the rebel camp on the move to reshuffle the Cabinet in a bid to save the wobbly 13-month-old government, as the action shifted to Goa from Mumbai after 13 dissident MLAs — 10 of the Congress and 3 of the JD(S) — submitted their resignations to the Assembly Speaker's office on Saturday triggering a fresh political crisis.
Of the 13 MLAs, 10 — seven of them from the Congress — were holed up in a luxury hotel in Mumbai since Saturday and were joined by H Nagesh, one of the two Independent MLAs and a minister who quit, on Monday. All the legislators were headed to Goa by road.
Sources in Mumbai said the legislators were being accompanied by Mohit Bhartiya, president of the Mumbai BJP Yuva Morcha. According to JD(S) sources in Bengaluru, the party MLAs were being taken to a resort on the outskirts of the city.
The two Independent MLAs--H Nagesh and R Shankar--who were made ministers less than a month ago in a bid to give stability to the government resigned and extended support to the BJP, as resort politics returned to haunt the crisis-hit coalition.
Amid an allegation by Congress leader D K Shivakumar that the BJP 'hijacked' Nagesh, all eyes were on Speaker Ramesh Kumar, who is expected to examine on Tuesday the resignations by the 13 MLAs submitted to him on Saturday that triggered the latest political crisis in the state.
The ruling coalition faces the threat of losing its majority if the resignations of the 13 rebel MLAs are accepted. The JD(S)-Congress coalition's total strength after Nagesh and Shankar withdrew support is 116 (Congress-78, JD(S)-37 and BSP-1) besides the Speaker.
With the support of the two independents, the BJP has 107 MLAs in the 224-member House, where the half-way mark is 113. If the resignations of the 13 MLAs are accepted, the coalition's tally will be reduced to 103. The Speaker also has a vote.
Fighting hard to save one of its few state governments, Congress took the lead holding the meeting at the residence of Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, which was attended by senior leaders, including AICC general secretary K C Venugopal.
At the end of the meeting, the party said all its 21 ministers resigned "voluntarily" to enable a reshuffle of the Cabinet and make way for the disgruntled legislators, in an apparent fire fighting exercise.
JD(S) followed suit later with nine of its Ministers resigning after Kumaraswamy met Congress leaders. "For the larger interest of the party, yesterday and today, we had detailed discussions with senior leaders and ministers," Venugopal told reporters.
The meeting was attended by Congress Legislature Party Leader Siddaramaiah, a former chief minister, among others.
Siddaramaiah too said all Congress ministers voluntarily resigned and have given "full freedom" to the party to reshuffle the ministry. "All ministers from #JDS have submitted their resignations just like the 21 ministers from #Congress. Cabinet reshuffle will happen soon," the Chief Minister's Office said in a tweet.
Kumaraswamy, who returned from his 10-day long US trip Sunday, put up a brave face, saying he was not afraid of the developments. "The government will survive," he said, alleging that the current situation is the work of the BJP high command.
Kumaraswamy told reporters he had "no fear" about the happenings and was concentrating on fulfilling his responsibilities. He evaded a direct answer to a question about the resignation of the 13 MLAs and merely said "Let's see".
According to Rajeev Gowda, a state Congress leader from Karnataka, UPA Chairperson and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi said she is "very very confident" that things will be back to normal in a couple of days.
The BJP, on its part, demanded immediate resignation of Kumaraswamy, saying his government was in 'minority'. "If at all he has dignity, honour and self-esteem, or if he is aware of Karnataka's culture and traditions, he should immediately resign... Do not try to stick on to the chair. You do not have the numbers," said former deputy CM R Ashok.
The Congress accused the BJP of trying to destabilise the state government. "This is the sixth time the BJP has tried to destabilise the coalition government in the state," Venugopal said.
The Centre denied any role in the political turmoil in Karnataka which echoed in the Lok Sabha where Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took a dig at Rahul Gandhi, saying the resignation drive was started by the Congress President.
"Whatever is happening currently in Karnataka, we have no relation with that," he said, replying to the issue raised by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury who alleged conspiracy. "Big leaders of Congress are resigning," Singh said.
Meanwhile, senior Congress MLA Roshan Baig on Monday threatened to quit the party and join BJP. "I'm hurt by the way Congress party treated me, I'll resign from my MLA post and join BJP," he said.
(With inputs from PTI)