(Photo: PTI)
(Photo: PTI)

Karnataka crisis casts a shadow over budget presentation today

  • BJP is hoping to defeat the finance bill, which it hopes will force the coalition government to step down
  • The JD(S)-Cong alliance has dared the opposition to move a no-confidence motion if it has the ‘guts’ to do so

BENGALURU : It’s like a game of chicken minus the fast pace, the adrenalin or the will to go the distance. In the face-off between the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in Karnataka and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), both have been challenging each other without putting so much as a foot forward to challenge themselves.

The challenges and counters for the second straight day in the legislative assembly on Thursday threaten to plunge the state into a deeper political crisis and cast a shadow over the presentation of the state budget—scheduled on Friday at the “auspicious" time of 12.32pm.

The BJP is demanding that the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), and Congress coalition prove that they have the numbers to continue in power while the alliance is daring the opposition to move a no-confidence motion if it has the “guts" to do so.

The BJP protested inside the assembly chanting slogans like, “one government, two chief ministers"—a reference to recent statements by some Congress legislators backing former chief minister Siddaramaiah. The coalition, too, tried to shout down the BJP, resulting in the House being adjourned for a second time on Thursday.

( Graphic: Ahmed Raza Khan/ Mint)

With parliamentary elections round the corner, the BJP hopes to highlight the failures of the coalition strategy of the Congress party, which is trying to unite and lead opposition parties against the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

“We are not trying to bring down the government nor form one," S. Suresh Kumar, senior BJP leader and former law minister said. “This whole episode is pregnant with happenings," he added, demanding clarity on missing legislators across the aisle.

At least four Congress legislators have kept away from the budget session, defying a party whip. Another, J.N. Ganesh, is absconding after physically assaulting fellow-party MLA Anand Singh.

The BJP needs another nine to 10 coalition legislators, in addition to the missing five, in order to form the government. Also, other than the two independents, any other legislator from either the Congress or JD(S) is likely to be disqualified if they do decide to defect.

The troubles for the coalition stems from within as the JD(S) and Congress have been unable overcome internal differences and mistrust, dating back to before the turn of the century. Though the former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda-led JD(S) appears to have kept his party in order, increasing factionalism within the Congress and resentment at having been overlooked for cabinet posts have pushed the government to the brink on more than one occasion.

“All of them will come for the budget," Siddaramaiah said, sounding his belligerent best in front of the media. “If they are certain that the government does not enjoy majority, then let them move a no-confidence motion." The coalition has maintained that the BJP has offered money and promised plum ministerial berths to lure coalition legislators, an allegation vehemently denied by the saffron outfit.

Assembly speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar on Thursday told Mint that he will take appropriate action depending on what the opposition does when the budget is being presented.

The BJP, that has decided against moving a no-confidence motion, is hoping to defeat the finance bill, which would force the government to step down.

The JD(S), Congress and the BJP are holding their respective legislature party meetings on Friday to discuss their course of action.