Karnataka: Congress tries to woo back disgruntled MLAs, holds hectic parleys

Nagraj, Karnataka, The Federal, English news website
Nagraj speaking to the media after his meeting with Congress leaders. ANI video grab

A day after rebel Karnataka Congress MLA MTB Nagaraj hinted at taking back his resignation, more MLAs appeared to be following suit.

Nagaraj headed to Mumbai on Sunday, and Congress leaders in the state expressed confidence that he has gone to bring back another disgruntled MLA. On the same day, senior Congress leaders Siddaramaiah and G Parameshwara met key rebel MLA Ramalinga Reddy.

However, another rebel MLA ST Somashekar said they won’t take “our resignations back at any cost”.

He said fellow MLA K Sudhakar was in Delhi and may join them in Mumbai soon. “BJP leader R Ashok has nothing to do with us, we are unaware as to why he is here.”

Leaders of the Congress-JD(S) coalition held negotiations with Nagaraj on Saturday in a bid to woo him back to save the 13-month old H D Kumaraswamy-led government that is on the brink of collapse.

However, the Hoskote MLA had maintained that he intended to take a final decision on the withdrawal of his resignation after talks with Chikkaballapura MLA K Sudhakar, who is camping in Mumbai along with other dissident legislators. Nagaraj and Sudhakar had submitted resignation together to Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar on July 10. Senior congress leaders said that Nagaraj headed to Mumbai to try to bring back Sudhakar. Visuals of Nagaraj boarding a chartered flight also surfaced on local news channels.

“Nagaraj must have learnt that Sudhakar is in Mumbai and I feel he has gone there to bring him back,” Congress MLA and former minister H K Patil said.

Patil said the Nagraj had not only promised to remain in the Congress but also agreed to persuade his close friend Sudhakar to come back to the party fold. Patil and Congress working president Eshwar Khandre have been tasked with persuading Reddy to withdraw his resignation.

Before leaving for Mumbai, Nagaraj told reporters, “Sudhakar has switched off his phone, and is not available for the last two days. After pacifying and convincing Sudhakar, I will try to bring him back. Because we both had resigned together, so we want to be united. I have informed this to Congress leaders.” Noting that he was still in the Congress, he said leaders, including Kumaraswamy and CLP leader Siddaramaiah, have asked him to withdraw the resignation. “Im also trying for it (withdraw). Only thing is that I have to meet Sudhakar, I haven’t met him. I will meet him, he should be somewhere,” he said, adding “my intention is that we have to withdraw it (resignation) together.”

Meanwhile, BJP Karnataka president BS Yeddyurappa, who has been demanding the resignation of Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy on the grounds that the coalition no more has the required number of MLAs, has challenged Kumaraswamy to move a confidence motion in the Assembly to prove that the government has lost its majority in the Assembly.

To DK Shivakumar’s earlier statement that rebel MLAs voting against the government will be disqualified, Yeddyurappa said, “The Speaker doesn’t have the right to disqualify anybody because of the Supreme Court’s decision.”

The coalition government is on a sticky wicket with 16 MLAs — 13 of the Congress and three of the JD(S) — resigning from their Assembly membership. Besides, two independent legislators, who were made ministers recently to provide stability, have quit the cabinet. The independents — H Nagesh and R Shankar — withdrew support to the coalition government and are now supporting the BJP. The ruling coalition’s strength in the House is 116 (Congress 78, JD(S) 37 and BSP one), besides the speaker. With the support of the two independents, the opposition BJP has 107 MLAs in the 224-member House. If the resignations of the 16 MLAs are accepted, the ruling coalition’s tally will be reduced to 100. The speaker has a vote too.