A DAY after the Congress issued a whip to its 80 MLAs to “compulsorily attend the legislature session”, seven party MLAs stayed away from the opening day of the Budget Session on Wednesday, triggering fresh speculation of instability in the Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka.
The seven MLAs included four rebels — Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumathalli, B Nagendra and Umesh Jadhav, who skipped a party meeting last month — a Bellary legislator, J N Ganesh, who is in hiding after attacking party MLA Anand Singh at a resort last month, and B C Patil and K Sudhakar, who are both aspiring to be ministers.
In a whip issued on Tuesday, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah had ordered the party’s MLAs to “compulsorily attend the legislature session happening in Bengaluru from February 6 to February 15”.
Congress leader Dinesh Gundu Rao said some of the missing MLAs are expected to show up over the next few days.
The attendance of Congress MLAs during the Budget Session is being closely watched following speculation that the BJP is trying to destabilise the coalition government, despite denials by state BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa.
In the 224-member Assembly, the Congress-JD(S) alliance has 117 MLAs (without the Speaker), BJP has 104 MLAs, and there are three other MLAs. On Wednesday, two BJP MLAs and one JD(S) MLA were also absent from the House.
While there is no apparent threat to the Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka, given the numbers in the State Legislature, speculation surrounding five-six Congress rebels continues to create the impression of instability. The Congress and JD(S) are making it seem like the BJP is behind the instability, while the BJP is projecting it as a failure of the coalition government in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls. The coalition, however, is likely to experience a serious churn only after the Lok Sabha polls.
The absence of the seven Congress MLAs on Wednesday triggered speculation on the passage of the Finance Bill on February 15. The BJP would need to keep at least 12 MLAs of the ruling coalition away from the House on the day the Finance Bill comes up for passage, in order to embarrass the government.
Meanwhile, Governor Vajubhai Vala’s address on Wednesday was disrupted by BJP MLAs, who said he was being forced to “read lies”. The Governor abandoned his speech mid-way and deemed the speech as presented in the House.
“Not allowing the Governor’s Budget speech is an insult to his position,” Siddaramaiah said.