Attempts by the BJP to woo away newly elected legislators from the Congress and JD(S) — by getting them to resign or abstain from voting in a floor test in the hung assembly in Karnataka — have resulted in a number of these MLAs adopting a wait-and-watch attitude with regard to their allegiances.
One of the fence-sitters who has given a pointer to what is going on the minds of these MLAs, who are being pressured to switch sides, is three-time MLA from Vijayanagara (Bellary) Anand Singh, who failed to show up among the elected Congress MLAs being guarded by the party ahead of the scheduled trust vote. The Vijayanagar MLA has told a senior Congress leader attempting to protect the Congress MLAs from poaching that he would like to stay away from the Congress group until it becomes clear which group is in a position to prove its majority.
“Anand Singh has informed a senior leader keeping the Congress flock together that he will be the 15th MLA to go with the BJP if the party is able to convince 14 MLAs to defect from the Congress and JD(S),” a source in the new JD(S)-Congress coalition said.
“The BJP is using the Enforcement Directorate to threaten us. The BJP has threatened Anand Singh as well,” JD(S) state president H D Kumaraswamy said Thursday.
“When the BJP does not have numbers, how will Modi give them the numbers? Will he produce new MLAs for the party? Instead of protecting systems and institutions in the country, Narendra Modi has set out to destroy them,’’ Kumaraswamy said.
“All our MLAs are with us except one MLA but that one MLA is also in touch with us. We will bring him here. There is a big protest in his constituency. All the workers are agitated,” Congress leader D K Shivakumar said. “Why are you worried he is in touch with us?” he said.
Many MLAs in the Congress and JD(S) have adopted a similar wait-and-watch attitude, sources in both parties said, even as BJP leaders agreed that efforts are on to try and reduce the numbers of the Opposition MLAs by at least 14 to bring their numbers from 117 to below 104, the BJP count.
BJP leader Shobha Karandlaje said on social media that many Congress and JD(S) MLAs were in touch with her party. “Many of the Congress and JD(S) MLAs won by fighting each other. Most of them are not in a position to face people if they join together and they have communicated to us. We are in touch with all of them and are confident of getting support of a minimum of 120,’’ she said.
B S Yeddyurappa, who took oath as Chief Minister, said in his first address to BJP workers at the party office Thursday that he will prove his majority “without hurting the image of PM Modi and party leader Amit Shah”. After taking oath, he had said, “Despite being rejected by the people, the Congress and JD(S) have formed an unholy alliance. People will not accept this. I am sure MLAs will vote as per their individual conscience.” BJP leaders said efforts are on to prove their majority by contacting Congress and JD(S) leaders but if the party fails to achieve it, then it would use the situation to accuse the Congress and the JD(S) of stealing the mandate of the people and denying a Lingayat leader the chance to be the CM.
While the 37 JD(S) seem better glued together than the 78 of the Congress, sources in the JD(S) said the BJP is making efforts to get its MLAs to defect.
“We have to protect from them poaching. I do not know about crores and all. I only know the number of MLAs. Those who are crorepatis will talk about crores. The BJP is talking of crores,” Congress leader D K Shivakumar said.
“They don’t have trust in their own MLAs. They have held them captive in resorts. They have severed MLAs’ contacts with their families by confiscating their phones. They are not allowed to watch news channels. It is ridiculous,” said Union minister Prakash Javadekar.