2 independents pull out of Karnataka govt, ‘I am enjoying’, says Kumaraswamy
Even if the two independents switch to the BJP, for a total of 106, it will need 13 MLAs from the government to quit to bring the strength of the house down to 211 to gain a simple majority.
The political situation in Karnataka, where the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have accused each other of trying to poach their members, appeared fluid on Tuesday night — just eight months after assembly elections — although the government of chief minister HD Kumaraswamy said it was confident of staying in power.
Two independent legislators withdrew support to the government and some Congress politicians were untraceable, a senior politician said, as the BJP kept its own MLAs in Gurugram to protect them from being wooed by the ruling dispensation.
R Shankar, member of the legislative assembly from Ranebennur in Haveri district, who was dropped from the state Cabinet last month, and H Nagesh, MLA from Mulbagal in Kolar district, announced their decisions to withdraw support at a press conference in Mumbai and sent a letter to that effect to governor Vajubhai Vala.
“I worked as a minister for 6-7 months thanks to the blessings of my constituents. But I wanted to do more work and since I did not get the government’s backing I am taking back my support to the government,” Shankar said.
Since Monday, there was speculation that the BJP has been in touch with some Congress MLAs. Some leaders of the Congress are reported to be in a hotel in Mumbai. HT could not verify this independently.
With the departure of the two independent MLAs, the strength of the coalition is down to 118 in a house of 224 members — 80 of the Congress, including speaker KR Ramesh Kumar, 37 of the JD(S), and a lone legislator of the Bahujan Samaj Party. With 104 MLAs, even if the two independent legislators extend their support, the BJP is still short of the majority mark of 113 by seven MLAs.
What makes the task of toppling the government harder is that any MLA who defects from the Congress or the JD(S) to the other side will have to resign from the assembly because of the anti-defection law, under which two-thirds members of a party must leave en mass to form a new group. That effectively means that even if the two independents switch to the BJP, for a total of 106, it will need 13 MLAs from the government to quit to bring the strength of the house down to 211 to gain a simple majority.
“I have not taken any responsibilities for the Independent MLAs, I have formed the government with the support of the Congress, not those two Independents... If two MLAs have withdrawn support what will be the numbers? I am totally relaxed,” Kumaraswamy told reporters.
Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge also expressed confidence that the government was stable.“Let BJP try as much as they want, but the government is stable. All people have been elected on ideology and they are not going to leave. However, BJP keeps on trying [to poach] because they are habitual,” Kharge told ANI.
Deputy chief minister G Parameshwara confirmed that some leaders of the Congress were not traceable, but said he was confident they would not switch sides. “The two [who withdrew support] won as independents and want to remain as such. They have even said they will support the BJP; that’s their wish. But one thing is true, the BJP is trying very hard to destabilise this government, and they have even got some Congress MLAs to go to Mumbai. The whole country is watching what is happening.”
Congress leader Zameer Ahmed said four to five party MLAs were in Mumbai and warned that the party “will not sit silently if attempts of poaching are made; even we are in touch with some BJP MLAs”.
All 104 MLAs of the BJP were in a resort in Gurugram for the second day amid allegations that the coalition government was trying to poach the party’s members in a bid to counter similar moves by the BJP. Repeated attempts to reach MLAs in the resort were unsuccessful.
“We are staying in the resort. We don’t know how long we are going to be here,” former chief minister Jagdish Shettar told PTI.
A senior Congress leader said on condition of anonymity the party was considering measures to ensure its MLAs were not lured by the BJP. “We can call a legislature party meeting and those who absent themselves against the party’s directive, we can approach the speaker to disqualify them. We are looking at all legal and constitutional measures.”
When election results to the Karnataka assembly were declared in May, the BJP, with 104 members, emerged as the single largest party in the House, but the Congress quickly sewed up an alliance with JD (S) and formed the government.
Senior BJP leader and the party’s in-charge for Karnataka P Muralidhar Rao on Tuesday said the JD(S)-Congress government in the state “cannot survive” its full five-year term and will fall on its own because of internal conflicts.
Congress leader DK Shivakumar said that all its MLAs were still with the Congress.
(With inputs from Agencies)
First Published: Jan 15, 2019 23:03:44