As he made his way through the ruling members lounge in the Karnataka Assembly Monday, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy spotted an MLA from his party Raja Venkatappa Nayak.
“Where were you yesterday? We thought you had joined the rebels when you went missing,” he told the MLA, who rose from his seat to greet the CM. The JD(S) Raichur MLA quickly explained that it was only a rumour. “Keep your courage up. It will all work out,” Kumaraswamy told Nayak, whose name has been among those likely to join a group of 13 Congress-JD(S) rebels who have resigned and have been holed up in a hotel in Mumbai since July 6.
On shaky ground, the Congress-JD(S) coalition in Karnataka, which will be reduced to a minority if the resignations of 16 rebel MLAs are accepted by the Speaker, got a lease of life Monday when a vote of confidence was scheduled on July 18.
The future of the coalition also depends on a case filed in the Supreme Court by 15 of the 16 rebel MLAs seeking directions to the Speaker to accept their resignations. The matter is scheduled to be taken up Tuesday after the SC issued interim orders last week to maintain status quo in terms of accepting the resignations or disqualifying the MLAs if they fail to abide by a whip issued by their parties.
Thirteen Congress and three JD(S) MLAs have resigned since July 6, technically reducing the numbers of the coalition from 117 to 101 compared to the BJP’s 105. However, the numbers will reduce only when the resignations are accepted by the Speaker or if the rebels are disqualified.
Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar told the House that the confidence vote sought by Kumaraswamy for the ruling coalition combine will be taken up at 11 am. With the BJP objecting to the conduct of regular proceedings of the Assembly without the government proving its majority, the Speaker also adjourned the house until Thursday.
BJP sources in Maharashtra claimed that none of the rebel legislators would take part in the confidence motion and will stay in Mumbai even on the day the trust vote is scheduled.
“The CM said that we can have the trust vote on Friday and the BJP wanted it done at the earliest. The Speaker decided to conduct it on Thursday. The discussion on the vote of confidence will begin at 11 am,’’ leader of the Congress party in the Assembly, Siddaramaiah said.
To keep the MLAs in check, the Congress, JD(S) and BJP have moved their legislators to separate resorts around Bangalore ahead of the trust vote.
The political situation in the run-up to the confidence vote is such a close affair that the BJP which had earlier planned to stage protests in the Assembly to seek an early trust vote refrained from doing so Monday fearing that the Speaker may suspend a few of their MLAs for unruly behaviour, party sources said.
In Mumbai, the rebels legislators wrote to the Mumbai Police Commissioner with allegations of a “threat from few Congress leaders”. “We have absolutely no intentions of meeting Mallikarjun Kharge ji or Gulam Nabi Azad ji or any Congress dignitaries or functionaries from Maharashtra and Karnataka Congress team leader or any other political leader. We anticipate serious threat from them,” states the letter.
(With Vishwas Waghmode in Mumbai)