Bengaluru: The Congress in Karnataka has convened a meeting of all its legislators on Friday to check on any would-be defectors amid growing speculation that some of them were planning to switch over to the rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Congress issued a whip saying anyone missing the meet would attract anti-defection laws.

The move to force attendance at the legislature party meeting comes a day after the coalition government led by chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy successfully thwarted another alleged attempt by opposition forces to bring down the eight- month-old government.

“The party has taken a hard line and this meeting will also be to state that it will not tolerate such behaviour anymore," said a Congress leader, requesting not to be named.

It is widely believed that at least three Congress legislators, who were holed up in a hotel in Mumbai, were ready to defect. Most of those presumed missing have since returned to reaffirm their loyalty to the party.

The Congress has struggled to keep its flock together since failing to retain power in Karnataka and striking an alliance with the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S).

“Forcing members to take a stand will definitely be one of the aspects addressed in the meeting," said another leader of the party, also requesting not to be named.

With the state budget and Lok Sabha elections fast approaching, the Congress will have to get some of its disgruntled party members in line before and spoil its chances at the forthcoming general elections.

Meanwhile, the BJP’s legislators have started to return to Bengaluru in batches after spending several days in a high-end hotel in Gurugram.

Though the Congress and JD(S) survived another alleged attempt to bring down the government, trouble still looms large from within as the two parties are playing hardball before the start of seat-sharing talks for the Lok Sabha elections.

With dissent among its seniors persisting because of the unavailability of space to accommodate them in the cabinet, the threat of a similar episode looms over the government, whose fate also depends on parliamentary elections results which the two parties have decided to fight as a team to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi- led BJP.

The BJP hit back against the coalition stating that the Congress and the JD(S) had indulged in horse-trading before but was conveniently preaching political morality now.

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