A sign of the Opposition BJP’s single-minded determination to win the trust vote against the Congress-JD(S) coalition in Karnataka has been evident in its refusal to be baited into a clash with ruling MLAs in the Assembly despite allegations of BJP leaders paying MLAs to defect and topple the government.
In the House Friday, before Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar extended confidence motion proceedings until Monday, JD(S) MLA Srinivas Gowda accused BJP MLAs Dr C N Ashwathnarayan, S R Vishwanath and former MLA C P Yogeshwar of offering him Rs 5 crore in cash and the guarantee of Rs 25 crore more if he joined the BJP.
Another JD(S) MLA, and minister, Sa Ra Mahesh claimed the BJP had offered JD(S) leader H Vishwanath Rs 28 crore to defect. “He said he had run up debts to contest the election last year,’’ Mahesh said.
Vishwanath is now among 15 coalition MLAs whose resignations have plunged the coalition to a minority of 101 MLAs, and put the BJP on the verge of forming a government with its own 105 MLAs and the support of two Independents in the 224-member House.
Despite the accusations of BJP leaders buying their MLAs, the BJP maintained stoic silence in the House, refusing to create a situation where MLAs could be suspended for unruly behaviour ahead of the trust vote, thus reducing its numbers.
BJP legislator C T Ravi told the media that the JD(S) MLA who was given Rs 5 crore earlier this year should have testified before the Anti Corruption Bureau.
In the past fortnight, the BJP’s hand in moving 13 Congress-JD(S) rebels, and two Independents who were ministers in the coalition, to Mumbai, has been evident on various fronts — state BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa’s secretary
N R Santhosh was spotted by Karnataka televisions cameras while helping rebels board chartered flights to Mumbai.
The real window into the BJP’s game plan to topple the coalition came in February when Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy used the services of Sharanagouda Kandakur, the son of a JD(S) MLA, to trap Yeddyurappa while making a defection offer.
“We are taking 20 people on board. We will make around 12 people who join us ministers and around eight people chairmen of corporations. Those whom we make ministers, we will give Rs 10 crore,” Yeddyurappa was heard saying in the JD(S) sting tapes.
Incidentally, many coalition MLAs being wooed in February by the BJP — Dr Sudhakar, Ramesh Jharkiholi, B C Patil, Prathap Gowda Patil of the Congress, Narayana Gowda of the JD(S) — have formed the core of the 15 rebel MLAs who have resigned since July 6.
The plan executed by the BJP is exactly what was proposed in February — shift rebel MLAs to BJP-ruled Mumbai and bring them at the appropriate time to topple the government.
Though an SIT was proposed by the government to investigate horse-trading attempts of the BJP in February, Kumaraswamy, in the end, did not go ahead. Following the current crisis, the Speaker and Leader of the Congress in the House Siddaramaiah have expressed regret over the failure of the government to carry out an investigation into the rebellion witnessed in February.
The money power that the BJP has in executing defections cannot be matched by the Congress or JD(S), a BJP legislator said. “We can give the rebels more of what they want,” said a BJP MLA linked to the defection strategy.
Former minister R Ashok, spotted in the company of Congress MLA M T B Nagaraj, while he was leaving Bengaluru to join rebels in Mumbai last week, denied any role in facilitating the exit. “Just because I was at the airport that day does not mean I was involved. I did meet the two Independents (who defected),” he said.
The ruling coalition and BJP have also traded charges over Congress MLA Roshan Baig, who was intercepted at the airport on July 15 while leaving for Pune. Baig was stopped by an SIT probing his role in a multi-crore ponzi scheme, while he was waiting to fly out allegedly with Yeddyurappa’s aide Santhosh .
“I was told that on seeing the SIT, Santhosh ran away while the team apprehended Mr Baig,” said Kumaraswamy. “BJP’s Yogeshwar was present at the time. It’s a shame that the Karnataka BJP is helping a former minister who is facing a probe in the IMA case. This clearly shows BJP’s direct involvement in destabilising the government through horse-trading.”
He also put out a passenger manifest for the chartered aircraft that Baig was supposed to fly showing Baig and Santhosh as registered passengers.
“CM H D Kumaraswamy is using the state machinery to save his government. Mr Roshan Baig was given time till 19th July to appear before the SIT. This shows how the state is blackmailing and treating their own MLAs,” the BJP said in a statement.
“It is false that Yeddyurappa’s PA Santhosh was travelling along with Mr Baig. The CM is peddling fake news and misleading the state…We demand a check of boarding passes and CCTV footage to put out the facts.”
While the BJP has made offers of huge funds to defecting MLAs, they have also held out the threat of CBI, ED and IT cases against many of the MLAs with shadowy pasts, a JD(S) source said. “We do not know if they are telling the truth but this is one thing that has comes up when we try to convince some of the rebels to return,” said a JD(S) source.