Karnataka Congress MLAs meet to be show of strength

Bengaluru: Buoyed by the return of its “prodigal” MLAs and failure of “Operation Lotus” against the JD(S)-Congress coalition, Karnataka’s ruling Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting here on Friday is expected to be a show of strength, capping the political drama of the last few days.

The meeting of Congress MLAs takes place after some half-a-dozen party MLAs, sulking over not being inducted into the government, returned expressing allegiance to the Congress even as nearly 100 BJP MLAs sequestered in a Gurugram hotel, near Delhi, are set to leave their camp on Friday.

“The legislators who will not attend the CLP meeting on Friday may be disqualified by the party. The meet will be a show of strength,” Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) Vice President B.K. Chandrashekar told IANS here.

The meeting has been onvened by CLP leader Siddaramaiah at the Vidhana Soudha at 3.30 p.m. “The meeting will take stock of all the political happenings over the last week. Legislators might also be asked to refrain from speaking against each other in the public,” Chandrashekar said.

The budget that will be presented by the coalition government in February will also be part of the discussions at the CLP meet.

Earlier this week, Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar’s remarks that the opposition BJP was indulging in horse trading by offering money to about four Congress legislators in Mumbai, set off high-octane political activity in the southern state.

While the BJP denied the poaching allegations, it lodged its legislators, who were in Delhi over the past week for a party meet with national leadership, at a private resort in Gurugram, Haryana. The party in turn claimed that the JD-S and Congress coalition was attempting to poach its legislators.

Amid the exchange of horse trading charges by the three major parties in the state, two legislators withdrew their support to the coalition government on Tuesday. They were R. Shankar of Karnataka Pragnavantha Janata Party from Ranebennur Assembly segment in Haveri district and H.Nagesh, an Independent from Mulbagal constituency in Kolar district.

The coalition partners, however, continued to maintain that the government was stable and that they had the support of all their legislators.

“No attempt to destabilise the coalition government will be effective as we have the support of all our legislators,” Congress leader and Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwara said.

In the 225-member Legislative Assembly, including one nominated member, the Congress has 80 legislators, JD-S 37, and the BJP 104, while one Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA continues to support the coalition after one Independent Nagesh and the KPJP legislator Shankar withdrew their support.

The coalition government thereby has 118 legislators on its side, while BJP has 104.

The BJP was “taking advantage” of the legislators who were not offered a place in the ministry, Parameshwara said.

“Whenever there is a cabinet reshuffle, there will naturally be disappointment among those legislators who were not offered a ministry. BJP was trying to take advantage of that but failed,” he asserted.

Among the two legislators who withdrew their support to the government, Shankar, who was a former Forests Minister in Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy’s cabinet, was dropped from the ministry during a reshuffle and expansion on December 22 last year.A

“There is a possibility that the legislators who were not given cabinet posts, be offered ministries, with 4-5 current Ministers ready to give up their positions,” Chandrashekar told IANS.

Through the CLP meet, the party aims to renew confidence among its legislators to keep the coalition intact, he said.A

“The party might also shift the focus to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections (in April-May) by entrusting the leaders with campaigning responsibilities,” the state unit Congress vice president added.

Meanwhile, Karnataka Congress Working President Dinesh Gundu Rao said many Congress MLAs out of Bengaluru on holiday or for Sankaranti and they were threatened by the BJP with the use of agencies and blackmailing tactics but it did not succeed.

BJP leader and former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa countered the Congress allegations and his suggestion to the Congress would be that it was their responsibility to keep the flock to gether.

“Keeping your MLAs together is not my responsibility. If they were not happy and were in Bengaluru or Mumbai or any other place, we are not responsible for that,” he said.

He said his party of 104 MLAs is in tact and charged the Congress with trying to poach BJP MLAs.