Taken aback by the resignation of its two MLAs, the Congress on Monday swung into action to protect its legislators who are said to be on the BJP’s radar.
Top Congress leaders, including CLP leader Siddaramaiah, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara and Water Resources Minister D K Shivakumar, contacted the “vulnerable” legislators over phone and asked them not to fall prey to BJP’s ‘Operation Lotus’ (poaching rival MLAs).
“If there’s an election six months from now, the Congress is unlikely to win. If there’s an election two years later, we still don’t know. So, why not be in power as long as it lasts?”
This is how a top Congress leader summarizes the mood in the party, even as uncertainty looms large over the Congress-JD(S) coalition after the resignation of Congress legislators Anand Singh and Ramesh Jarkiholi.
The HD Kumaraswamy-led coalition government, which has completed 13 months in office, has had a sword hanging over its head since day one. “It’s been like this everyday,” Congress’ Mines & Geology Minister Rajashekhar Patil told reporters.
For the Congress leadership, however, keeping the coalition intact is inevitable, much as some of its own leaders are against it – a true dilemma, as this alliance with the JD(S) is hurting the party on one hand and the need to stay in power on the other.
The party is putting up a brave face. Notwithstanding the looming crisis, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Dinesh Gundu Rao left for London with family.
Apparently, the Congress is confident that when it comes to the numbers game. If Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar accepts the resignation of Singh and Ramesh, the strength of the Congress-JD(S) combine will be down to 117.
The BJP has 105 and will need another 13 MLAs to resign to be able to form its government. “That’s a big number of people who should resign,” a Congress minister pointed out. “And it’s not easy.”
Water Resources Minister DK Shivakumar, the Congress’ Man Friday, said Tuesday there was no need to panic. “This government will complete its full term,” he said. “It’s not that we don’t know the games being played.”
The leaders also directed these MLAs to rush to Bengaluru. Bheema Naik, Pratapgouda Patil, Amaregouda Byapur, Basanagouda Daddal and others arrived in Bengaluru by evening. The party leaders are said to be thinking of herding these MLAs into a hotel in order to safeguard them.
It is learnt that Siddaramaiah spoke to Congress president Rahul Gandhi and AICC general secretary in charge of Karnataka K C Venugopal over phone.
He apprised them of the developments in the state. Venugopal is likely to arrive in Bengaluru either on Tuesday or Wednesday to take stock of the situation.
The sources said the Congress leaders are mulling reshuffling the Cabinet as a solution to quell disgruntlement in the party.
Over a dozen party MLAs are upset at not being made ministers.
Some of them like B C Patil had openly hit out at the party recently for being denied a Cabinet berth. And the BJP had been targeting these MLAs under its Operation Lotus, the sources pointed out.
The Congress had managed to pacify some of these MLAs by assuring them ministerial berths during the Cabinet reshuffle likely to be done by this year end.
“If the BJP intensifies the poaching operation, then the Congress would reshuffle the Cabinet soon. Ministers loyal to the party will be asked to resign to accommodate some of the disgruntled MLAs,” the sources said.
However, the party leaders have not taken any decision in this regard.
They have decided to wait and watch while taking measures to safeguard the MLAs, the sources added.