104, 120 and 118. Three numbers in three party offices in Bengaluru are all that matter on the eve of a crucial floor test in the Karnataka Assembly mandated by the Supreme Court. While the BJP and Congress organised meetings and huddles through Friday to prepare for the floor test, the JD(S) office, with its leadership in Hyderabad, was quiet and minus party workers.
At the BJP office in Malleshwaram, party workers cheered in the afternoon after MP Shobha Karandlaje announced at a press conference that they would easily prove their majority Saturday. “We welcome the Supreme Court order. We are confident of proving majority for Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa. I can tell you with confidence that we will be successful tomorrow. We are in touch with 16 MLAs from the other side and will get support from 120 legislators tomorrow,” she said.
Asked about the number 120, a senior party leader said, “We have them. You will see tomorrow. I cannot reveal the details of the plan, but we have them. We are in touch with the engine behind the Congress machine.” He only smiled when asked about the reference to the “engine”.
A group of BJP workers discussed her remarks. “She said 120. Is that possible? Did they succeed in convincing other MLAs to do the right thing? I hope so,” said one. “It’s a matter of honour and pride now… They will not let us down, you watch,” said another. But a third comment was more sobering: “I don’t know. What I have heard is that they are being offered something and they make a counter offer to us. I hope we did not celebrate too early.”
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Just four kilometres away at the Congress office on Queens Road, Karandlaje’s figure of 120 spread like wildfire. “She said 120, I heard her say 120 and that BJP is in touch with 16 MLAs. Is that possible? I know for a fact that they have only 104 MLAs. They cannot prove majority in the House,” said Ravikiran, a party worker from Mysuru.
Another three kilometres away, the JD(S) office looks all but abandoned. Easily the biggest and newest of the party offices in Bengaluru, party workers said all the leaders were in Hyderabad. “We have the biggest office, but the least MLAs. Also, most of our leadership is in Mandya and Mysuru and will arrive here only on Saturday,” said B T Biddegowda, a JD(S) worker.
In Hyderabad, Congress and JD(S) MLAs boarded buses late Friday night to head back to Bengaluru for the floor test. Earlier in the day, there were victory signs and cheers in the Congress and JD(S) camps after the Supreme Court ordered the floor test. But the smiles masked the worry and nervousness in the two camps in the run-up to the vote.
The MLAs had reached Hyderabad in the morning on board four Volvo buses from Bengaluru after a seven-hour road journey. Weary, they settled for biryani and coffee at the two five-star hotels where they had checked in.
Telangana Congress leaders, including TPCC chief N Uttam Kumar Reddy, made the arrangements for the stay of the MLAs after AICC leaders told them that they would be reaching Hyderabad, and not Kochi as planned earlier.
All of them were moved to Taj Krishna and Novotel to keep the flock together. Congress MLA D K Shivakumar appeared to be in charge of his party MLAs — in July last year, Shivakumar had organised the stay of Congress MLAs from Gujarat at a resort in Bengaluru ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections.
“My job is to ensure that all our MLAs are intact and safe. They and their families are under tremendous pressure. They are getting threats in the name of investigative agencies. But we will face the music and ensure that their efforts fail,” Shivakumar said. All MLAs were told to remove SIM cards from their mobile phones.
The run-up to the vote
* 10 am: MLAs to assemble in House
* 10.30 am: MLAs to take oath of office (This process may go on till 3 pm if it is one after the other. The other option is en masse oath ceremony)
* Short recess
* 4 pm: MLAs to assemble, Yeddyurappa to move Motion of Confidence
* Speaker can allow CM to make a statement. If he does, JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy will speak as Leader of Opposition * MLAs will vote on the motion