A day after Congress minister D K Shivakumar alleged that MLAs were being lured to topple the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka, two Independent MLAs Tuesday withdrew support to the seven-month-old coalition.
Two Independent MLAs, R Shankar, from Ranebennur, who was dropped from the state Cabinet last month, and H Nagesh from Mulbagal, released letters addressed to the Governor stating their withdrawal of support, but are yet to formally meet the Governor and resign.
The move comes at a time when there is speculation on the BJP attempting to get Congress MLAs to resign to reduce coalition numbers and form the government in Karnataka. Incidentally, most state BJP MLAs were closeted at a resort in Manesar Tuesday.
The two Independents were earlier reported to be with around seven Congress MLAs, who went incommunicado Monday amid suggestions by Shivakumar of the Opposition BJP plotting to poach MLAs to destabilise the government.
The withdrawal of support is unlikely to destabilise the Congress-JDS alliance unless at least 11 MLAs from the ruling combine resign as well to reduce the coalition to a minority government. The Congress with 80 MLAs and the JDS with 37 enjoy a clear majority in the 224-member Karnataka Assembly, where the halfway mark is 113. The BJP has 104 MLAs and there are two Independents and a BSP MLA.
And amid speculation that at least seven Congress MLAs, unhappy after not being made ministers, might exit the party, Congress and JDS leaders held a series of meetings to draw up a strategy to keep their MLAs intact by ensuring constant communication over the next few days.
“Does the majority go away if two Independents go away? I have no control over Independents. We know who will resign and who will not. The majority cannot be disturbed. I know I have the strength of numbers to run a government under the Constitution,” said Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy after meeting Congress general secretary and observer for Karnataka K C Venugopal.
“I want to say clearly that the news channels on TV have replaced entertainment channels and are running news like the serial episodes on entertainment channels. I am enjoying the fiction you have been creating over the last two days,” he said.
Incidentally, one Congress MLA, Umesh Jadhav from Chincholi, who aspired to be a minister, has been spotted with BJP leaders in Delhi, said sources. “We understand that some of our MLAs are unhappy but the BJP does not have the numbers to topple the government. We cannot say the rebels will be used to destabilise the government,” said Congress minister from Belagavi Satish Jharkiholi.
Karnataka Home Minister M B Patil was dispatched to Mumbai to meet some of the rebel MLAs reportedly holed up there. He said Tuesday that he was in touch with all the Congress MLAs.
Meanwhile, the ITC Grand Bharat in Manesar, where the BJP MLAs are sequestered, was a fortress Tuesday. “Only those with bookings are allowed. We have instructions not to allow anyone else inside,” said a security official at the main gate.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Chikkamagaluru MLA C T Ravi said: “I am not present in the resort. I am in my constituency. I cannot comment on what is happening inside the resort.”
Shashikala Annasaheb Jolle, MLA from the Nippani assembly constituency echoed what BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa said Monday. “We are here to chalk out the strategy for the Lok Sabha elections. We will be here for the next 2-3 days. It will depend on when we finish,” she said.
P Muralidhar Rao, BJP national general secretary tweeted, “Congress leadership has failed in Karnataka in providing good governance and also coherent government, Now they are trying to shift the blame on BJP. BJP is not ready to play the game, blame is entirely on Congress.”