As two Independent MLAs resigned as ministers and withdrew support from the ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition in Karnataka, all 30 ministers of the two parties resigned “voluntarily” Monday to allow a Cabinet reshuffle in a desperate bid to accommodate disgruntled legislators and pull the alliance back from the brink of collapse.
The exit of Independent MLAs H Nagesh and R Shankar, inducted into the Cabinet on June 14 to bolster numbers, reduced the coalition’s strength to 104 after 13 MLAs, 10 Congress and 3 JD(S), resigned Saturday. The coalition now comprises 69 Congress MLAs, 34 JD(S) and one BSP MLA compared to the BJP’s 107 (105 plus two Independents) in the 224-member House.
Both Independents left for Mumbai to join 14 other rebel MLAs at a hotel where the Youth Congress staged protests. Hours later, the MLAs were flown to a resort in Goa, according to BJP sources.
The effect of the mass resignations — 21 Congress and nine JD(S) ministers — will become clear Tuesday when a Congress legislature party (CLP) meeting is set to be held and the rebels are also scheduled to meet Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar to explain their resignations.
Congress leaders expressed confidence of rescuing the coalition with the move to reshuffle the Cabinet even as they accused the BJP of luring MLAs away with the offer of ministerial posts and money.
“Some of the MLAs have some grievances, some of them are talking about the expansion of the ministry. For the larger interest of the party, Congress ministers have decided to voluntarily resign under the prevailing situation,” said AICC general secretary K C Venugopal.
“Those who have resigned should come back and strengthen the party. We think they will definitely return and we are confident the government will continue and then this will be the sixth failure of the BJP within one year to destabilise the government.”
Leader of the Congress in the Assembly Siddaramaiah said: “I want to suggest on behalf of the Congress to all MLAs who have resigned because they were not made ministers and those looking to defect to the BJP that we will address their problems and resolve them and they should not take any desperate decisions. After the reshuffle, we will try to ensure another reshuffle to accommodate interests.”
He also claimed to have established contact with the rebels and indicated that they seemed to be in a mood to relent.
Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy said he has “no fear” about the “political developments” and was concentrating instead on fulfilling his responsibilities. “I have no fear about the political developments, I will not discuss political developments… I have nothing do with what BJP people are doing and what others are doing,” he said, according to PTI.
And in a sign that at least two Congress MLAs could return to the party fold, MLA Soumya Reddy, who returned to Bengaluru after meeting Congress leaders in Delhi, indicated that she will attend the CLP meeting Tuesday. Soumya and her father, Ramalinga Reddy, a veteran Congressman, were linked to the rebel group of MLAs.
Kumaraswamy had earlier suggested that Congress leaders make efforts to convince Reddy against leaving and that this would also ensure the return of as many as five other MLAs from the rebel group.
The Congress is also exploring options of disqualifying MLAs who do not turn up for the legislature party meeting.
Meanwhile, the JD(S) moved its flock of 34 MLAs to a resort outside Bengaluru in an attempt to protect them from poaching. The Congress is also expected to conduct a similar exercise Tuesday after the CLP and ahead of an Assembly session on July 12, where the coalition could be asked to prove its numbers by the BJP.
“Chief Minister Kumaraswamy has lost his majority and he must resign immediately. The BJP will stage protests around Karnataka on Tuesday over the continuance of this minority government,” said state BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa ahead of legislature party meeting.
Congress leader D K Shivakumar who flew to Mumbai to convince rebels to return to Bengaluru also accused the BJP of abducting two Independent MLAs in an effort to defeat the coalition government in the numbers game.
In Mumbai, more than 200 Youth Congress activists protested outside the Sofitel Hotel in Bandra Kurla Complex at around 5 pm. The Congress workers also brought a horse cart for the protest to condemn the alleged horse trading of party legislators by the BJP.
“We are here to meet Congress legislators as we feel they are being kept in the hotel against their will. We are concerned about their safety,” said Ganesh Yadav, president of Mumbai Pradesh Youth Congress.
Yadav also claimed that he was not being allowed into the Hotel. “But, BJP leaders such as Prasad Lad are inside. Entry is not restricted to them. The entire episode is suspicious,” he said.
On Sunday night, the dissident Congress and JD(S) legislators had said that they will not withdraw their resignations and would not attend the CLP meeting scheduled Tuesday.
(With Vishwas Waghmode in Mumbai)