The Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress coalition government in Karnataka teetered on the brink of collapse with two more Congress party legislators resigning on Wednesday.
M.T.B. Nagaraj, the legislator from Hoskote and confidant of former chief minister Siddaramaiah and K. Sudhakar, MLA from Chikkaballapur, met the assembly speaker on Wednesday to hand in their papers.
Nagaraj made a quick getaway but Sudhakar was roughed up by Congress workers on the premises of the assembly and dragged into the chamber of industries minister K.J. George.
High drama followed for several hours as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators and workers clashed with their Congress counterparts--each accusing the other of subverting democracy--in front of the office where Sudhakar was confined along with senior leaders such as Siddaramaiah, Dinesh Gundu Rao and Priyank Kharge.
Entry of reporters into the legislature was restricted.
“As a Congress legislature party leader I was trying to convince him," Siddaramaiah said after the meeting. Sudhakar was bundled away with heavy police protection as he was being swarmed by Congress workers who accused him of selling out to the BJP.
Siddaramaiah said that Sudhakar will reconsider his decision but remained mum on Nagaraj’s resignation. At least four legislators—Nagaraj, Munirathna, Byrathi Basavaraj, S.T. Somashekar—considered to be close aides of Siddaramaiah have resigned since Saturday. Mistrust between the coalition partners is at an all-time high especially in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections where workers and leaders of both parties refused to work with each other, leading to one of its worst defeats as both the Congress and JD(S) were reduced to one seat each while the BJP won 25 out of the total 28 parliamentary seats.
Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar is yet to accept any of the 16 resignations so far but has given at least seven legislators an appointment to give them a hearing according to procedure and asked for the re-submission of another eight as it is not in the prescribed format.
If all resignations are accepted, then the coalition’s strength would be reduced to 100 (excluding the speaker) as against 105 of the BJP. The two independents—H. Nagesh and R. Shankar—have extended support to the BJP.
Meanwhile, the 10 rebel legislators, holed up in a plush Mumbai hotel since Saturday, asked the Speaker to accept their resignations. The BJP accused the Karnataka coalition of using the Speaker to delay accepting the resignations. The rebels moved the Supreme Court on Wednesday seeking its intervention to force the Speaker to accept their resignations.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi took note of the submission of senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi. The matter was listed for Thursday.
Prathma Sharma and Shashwati Das from New Delhi contributed to this story.