Bengaluru: The Karnataka unit of Congress party on Tuesday decided to seek the disqualification of its rebel legislators, attempting to save its crisis-hit coalition government in the state.
“Legislature party has decided to make a petition before speaker seeking disqualification," Congress leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah said after a meeting.
Siddaramaiah accused these members of legislative assembly (MLAs) of anti-party activities and colluding with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to bring down the government, adding the party will also seek to prohibit them from contesting elections for six years.
The resolution to approach the speaker comes a day after the coalition said it would reshuffle the Cabinet to accommodate some of the rebels in a last-ditch effort to save the government.
Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar, meanwhile, is yet to accept the resignations submitted by the rebel legislators from both Congress and the JD(S).
The Congress has also asked the speaker to act on its earlier petition seeking the disqualification of Ramesh Jarkiholi and Mahesh Kumathalli and stern action against the other legislators, currently lodged in a plush hotel in Mumbai.
Speaker Kumar said that out of the 13 resignations so far, eight had not been done in the prescribed manner and if those legislators want to resign, they must redo the process.
“We have done nothing to be expelled from the party," B.C. Patil, a Congress MLA currently in Mumbai told reporters on Tuesday. He added that there was no question of taking back the resignations, adding to the political uncertainty.
Trouble for the coalition mounted as seven-time legislator from Shivajinagar and senior Congress leader R. Roshan Baig resigned on Tuesday.
Baig’s resignation takes the total to 14 exits from the two parties so far, bringing down the total strength of the lower house to 209, excluding the speaker. The JD(S)-Congress coalition would be reduced to 102 (excluding the speaker), if the resignations are accepted while BJP stands at 107, including support from two independents.
While the Congress’s central leadership battles its own set of problems after its defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, the onus to save the Karnataka government has fallen on the deeply divided state unit.
Senior Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar said he will reach Mumbai on Wednesday and try to convince the rebels to return even as he faces resistance from party leaders who are reluctant to save the government.
The speaker said he has to examine the case of R. Shankar, the independent MLA who resigned as a minister as he had earlier agreed to merge his party with the Congress and hence could attract anti-defection laws.
The BJP, meanwhile, has requested the governor to intervene as the government had lost its majority.
“We have the option of moving a no-confidence motion against the government if they (coalition) do not resign," said one senior BJP legislator, requesting not to be named.
The JD(S) has lodged all its remaining legislators in a resort outside Bengaluru to shield them from being poached by the opposition. Kumar said several citizens had complained against the rebels as they were adding to the troubles of the state reeling under one of its worst droughts and facing acute drinking water shortage.
The Congress is hopeful that some of the rebels may return to the party fold.