In a further jolt to the wafer-thin majority of the HD Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in Karnataka, two Congress MLAs – Anand Singh and Ramesh Jarkiholi – resigned from the party on Monday (July 1) even as the chief minister is on a private visit to the US.
Singh, an MLA from Vijayanagara constituency, has attributed his exit to disagreement with the state government over its decision to allocate land to JSW Steel Company of the Jindal group in the state. Jarkiholi, on the other hand had threated to quit the Congress on several occasion. The Chief Minister met him last month and assured him to hear his concerns.
“I have submitted my resignation as the people of my constituency are agitated over the government’s approval to lease out government land to the Jindals,” Singh said. While he submitted his resignation to the governor, sources say the BJP is keeping a close watch on the development.
Until 2018, Singh was with the BJP but later joined the Congress ahead of the Assembly elections last year.
He caused a major embarrassment to the BJP when he was arrested on charges of illegal mining and handed over to the CBI for interrogation. He was one of the main accused in the illegal export of iron ore from Belekeri port in Karnataka.
While the Congress and JD(S) have declined to comment on the development, sources in the Congress said, this was BJP’s ploy to rattle the government as part of its ‘Operation Kamala’ while the Chief Minister was away. The BJP has denied its involvement in the development.
More resignations to follow?
Speculations are rife that eight other Congress MLA plan to resign, to enable the BJP to claim stake to form the government. Singh, a three-time MLA from Vijayanagara served as the tourism minister during his tenure with the BJP.
A few months ago, he was attacked by other Congress MLAs when the party had its flock shifted to a resort, fearing poaching by the BJP.
While the BJP has given its assurance that it will not resort to any measures to dislodge the ruling government, the party has certainly banked on the disgruntled MLAs in the ruling coalition. It, however, kept the ruling government on the edge with its moves post Lok Sabha election where it won 25 of the 28 seats in the state.
After discontent in the Karnataka coalition, the Kumaraswamy government expanded the cabinet on Friday (June 14). Two rebel MLAs— Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party MLA R Shankar (Ranebennur) and independent MLA H Nagesh (Mulbagal) – were inducted as ministers.
The government overlooked the request of senior Congress leaders like Ramalinga Reddy and Shivaram Hebbar among others while filling the vacant ministerial positions. The Congress leaders opposed the induction questioning the loyalty of the senior lawmakers.
Considering that the government was formed with just five seats above the majority mark in the 224-member Assembly, its desperate need to sustain the majority, encourages some MLAs to turn rebel every now and then.