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Rebel Karnataka MLA MTB Nagaraj’s flip-flop a blow for coalition

Making another about turn, housing minister and Congress MLA MTB Nagaraj on Sunday flew to Mumbai on a chartered plane and headed straight to the five-star hotel where 12 other rebel MLAs have been camping.

Nagaraj flew to Mumbai about 12 hours after he had said outside former chief minister Siddaramaiah’s house that he would return to the Congress fold and convince another rebel, K Sudhakar, to return to the grand old party as well.

Later in the day, addressing a press conference at the Mumbai hotel, Nagaraj said there was no question of him taking back his resignation. “I said Sudhakar and I had resigned together and that I would try and convince him to take back his resignation, and that I would do so only if he agreed. Even now I will speak to Sudhakar and come to a decision. There is no question of me taking back my resignation,” he said.

The move came as a huge blow to the ruling Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government, which had believed to have pulled off a coup after Nagaraj’s statement on Saturday. Kumaraswamy has already said that he will seek a trust vote in the coming week.

After Nagaraj’s exit, Congress leaders got into a huddle at the Kumar Krupa Guest House here. Water resources minister, and chief Congress troubleshooter DK Shivakumar, who had begun talks with Nagaraj on Saturday, said before entering the meeting that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party must own up now to its ambitions and admit that it is behind these resignations.

Yeddyurappa’s secretary Santosh was seen near the aircraft that Nagaraj took, and BJP MLA and former deputy chief minister R Ashok was seen with Nagaraj at the HAL airport here. “The BJP had claimed that it was not involved. However, it is behind this operation. If it has self-respect let its leaders admit that they are thirsting for power and are behind this,” he said.

Later in the day, senior leaders from both parties — Kumaraswamy, Siddaramaiah, deputy chief minister G Parameshwara, Shivakumar, Mallikarjun Kharge, AICC general secretary KC Venugopal, and Congress Karnataka president Dinesh Gundu Rao — held a meeting with Congress senior Ramalinga Reddy, who had resigned last week as well. A former home minister, Reddy refused to reveal his next move, insisting that he would only speak about politics after Monday.

In the meanwhile, the BJP, too held a meeting of its legislature party at a resort here to discuss the changing political scenario and prepare for the trust vote in the week ahead. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior BJP leader said the party was fairly certain now that the coalition would lose the trust vote.

“There were a few nerves after Nagaraj’s statement on Saturday. However, those fears were allayed on Sunday. Of course, everything now depends on the Supreme Court’s hearing on Tuesday and what it decides about the delays caused by the Speaker,” the BJP leader said.

Leaders from all three parties are now concentrated on the numbers game. So far, 16 MLAs of the two parties — 13 of the Congress and three of the JD(S) — have submitted resignation letters and the matter is pending before Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar, who has said he will approve the resignations only after the MLAs personally meet him and convince him of the voluntary and genuine nature of the resignations.

At present, the coalition has 101 MLAs — including one nominated MLA — and the BJP has 105 MLAs. A senior Congress leader confirmed that the nominated member has a vote in a floor test. As a result, the House strength would come down to 209, assuming all 16 resignations are accepted. In such a scenario, the reduced majority would be 105.

However, there is lesser clarity on the fate of former minister R Shankar, who had agreed to merge his Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party with the Congress after he was inducted in the state Cabinet just last month. According to the Congress, a merger letter has been given to the Speaker and he has accepted it as well. However, officials in the secretariat have denied receiving any such letter.

The Congress leader quoted above said that Shankar was likely to get disqualified as he had submitted a letter to Governor Vajubhai Vala pledging his support to the BJP, which would result in automatic disqualification.

A senior Congress minister said there was still hope. “None of the rebels have blocked communication with us, they are still in touch with us, trying desperately to get the best deal from both sides,” the minister said.

First Published:
Jul 14, 2019 20:36 IST

Source: HindustanTimes