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H.D. Kumaraswamy
H.D. Kumaraswamy

Karnataka alliance on the edge as 2 Congress MLAs quit

  • Resignations, if accepted, brings down strength of Lower House of legislature to 222
  • The resignations of Anand Singh and Ramesh Jarkiholi sparked fears of mass resignations

BENGALURU : Congress legislators Anand Singh and Ramesh Jarkiholi resigned on Monday, further shrinking the slender majority of the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition government in Karnataka.

The resignations sparked fears that more were likely to follow and bring down the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led state government, which has had a difficult time keeping the alliance afloat.

“I had protested against the lease-cum-sale of land to JSW Steel and the betterment of my district," Singh, the legislator from Vijayanagar, said. He added that he wouldn’t tolerate any “injustice" to his district, and demanded that the state government should not go ahead with the sale.

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(Graphic: Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint)

Singh also said that his constituency should be converted into a district.

Singh, a former mining baron, who was allegedly involved in illegal mining in Karnataka, had earlier tried to jump ship and join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP, however, is waiting for the coalition to crumble under the weight of its own internal divisions.

The Sajjan Jindal-controlled JSW Steel, which operates a steel plant in Ballari, finds itself in the middle of a political slugfest after the Karnataka government decided to sell 3,667 acres to the company on the basis of an earlier agreement. In May, the Kumaraswamy government decided to go ahead with the lease-cum-sale agreement that was signed back in 2006 by the JD(S)-BJP coalition government, but faced stiff opposition from all quarters, including some of its own members. The issue has been referred to a cabinet sub-committee.

Karnataka’s water resources minister and senior Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar said that Singh’s resignation came as a “big shock" since he had assured that he would not leave the party.

The development does not augur well for Kumaraswamy, who is currently in the US for treatment and to attend private events.

The chief minister, however, put up a brave face on a Twitter post saying that he was well aware of the political developments and that the BJP was daydreaming about bringing down his government.

Jarkiholi, who has been threatening to quit for a while, sent in his resignation, but is likely to meet with concerned authorities on Tuesday, people aware of the matter said.

The resignations, if accepted, brings down the strength of the Lower House of the state legislature to 222 (excluding the nominated member). The JD(S)-Congress coalition will be reduced to 116, including two independents, compared to the BJP’s 105 legislatures.

The resignations could also threaten the fate of the finance bill, which is scheduled to be passed in the forthcoming session of the state assembly. The monsoon session is scheduled to begin on 12 July.

“We cannot be held responsible if they can’t keep their flock together," said C.T.Ravi, BJP member of legislative assembly (MLA) and party general secretary.

Over the past year, former Karnataka CM and senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah was accused of engineering much of the dissent to settle personal scores against former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his son Kumaraswamy.

Though the dissent did not amount to mass resignations, it was a constant headache for the coalition government, which appeared to be on notice since the beginning of its term. The BJP’s dominance in the Lok Sabha elections only added fuel to fire. The Congress and JD(S) won just one seat each, while the BJP won 25 out of the 28 parliamentary seats in the state.

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