The four rebel Congress legislators who had gone incommunicado and were allegedly holed up in a hotel in Mumbai for weeks, surfaced at the ongoing budget session in the state assembly on Wednesday, around a month after they were suspected to be in talks with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), putting the H.D.Kumaraswamy led coalition government that enjoys only a slender majority, on notice.
Ramesh Jarkiholi, B.Nagendra, Mahesh Kumathalli and Umesh Jadhav attended the ongoing budget session, that the Congress party says, might exonerate them from violating the party whip and likely to end this round of onslaught by the BJP that has been accused of trying to bring down the eight month old government before the parliamentary elections, scheduled to be held later this year.
“It is true that we are disgruntled. But we have not indulged in any anti-party activities," Jarkiholi said on Wednesday, citing his daughter’s wedding as the reason for his going to Mumbai.
Nagendra denied making any statement about leaving the party and added that he was in Mumbai for personal reasons. The statements of apparent reconciliation taking the sting off the BJP’s alleged advances to capitalise on the discord between the coalition partners and dissent within the Congress, at least for the moment.
Congress had appealed to the assembly speaker for disqualifying the four legislators that would insulate the coalition’s strength from shrinking any further and potentially impeding the passage of the finance bill that is yet to be ratified by the house.
The coalition got another breather after H.Nagesh, the independent legislator from Mulbagal (Kolar district) met Congress leader Siddaramaiah and expressed his interest in joining the party, weeks after he had withdrawn support to the government.
“The coalition was never worried about its stability. But the BJP stands completely exposed," Dinesh Gundu Rao, the state Congress president said, on Nagesh’s support and imminent entry into the party.
Nagesh’s support would take the coalition’s strength to 118 (excluding the speaker) as against 104 of the BJP in the 224 seater house.
The BJP was hopeful to impede the smooth passage of the finance bill and corner the coalition government before the parliamentary elections. Ironically, the saffron party found itself cornered after the CM released an audio recording in which his predecessor and BJP state president B.S.Yeddyurappa is purportedly offering money and plum ministerial posts to the son of a JD(S) legislator to switch sides.
The BJP has since accused Kumaraswamy of trying to hatch a conspiracy against Yeddyurappa with fabricated evidence for political gains. The over eighty minutes of conversation had a mention of the speaker, who the person in the audio claims to have won over with ₹50 crores, raising a political storm, with the latter seeking a probe by a special investigation team (SIT). Preetham Gowda, a BJP legislator from Hassan district on Wednesday accused the Prime Minister H.D.Deve Gowda led party of attacking his home, parents and associates after his name was also mentioned in the audio clips released by the CM on Friday. Denying any wrongdoing, Preetham said that the JD(S) was trying to intimidate him and his family, after he scripted history of becoming the first BJP legislator to win in the JD(S) bastion and parliamentary constituency of Deve Gowda. Some legislators led by Yeddyurappa left for Hassan to protest against the attack against its legislator.