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14 MLAs resign from the ruling Congress-JDS combine in Karnataka
14 MLAs resign from the ruling Congress-JDS combine in Karnataka|Pic courtesy: The Indian Express
Politicking

More Resignations On The Anvil In Karnataka? 

The Congress is working hard to woo back Siddaramaiah’s loyalists whose resignations were unexpected, JDS on damage control mode

Imran Qureshi

The Janata Dal Secular (JDS)-Congress coalition government may be tottering with the resignation of over a dozen MLAs as Operation Kamala 4.0 takes full force and threatens to complete the process of bringing down the government in the next few days.

But the Congress efforts to salvage the situation appears to be more focussed on the loyalists who have sent shock waves across the party. Saturday’s resignations by ‘known suspects’ who have been in cohorts with their BJP “handlers” has not come as much of a surprise to the leadership of the coalition.

What really shook up the leadership, particularly of the Congress party, was the resignation of known loyalists of the party or former chief minister Siddaramaiah.

Former minister Ramalinga Reddy, Bangalore Development Authority chairman ST Somasekhar, Byrati Basavaraju and Muniratna are among those whose loyalty to the party has never been in doubt.

“Their grievance has been that they have not only been denied ministerial posts but also they have been discriminated against by chief minister HD Kumaraswamy and his JDS ministers in the allocation of developmental funds. Our entire effort now is to bring them back,” said a senior Congress leader who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Despite the tough challenge thrown to the Congress during the 2018 assembly election, leaders like Ramalinga Reddy and others, all of whom hail from constituencies in Bengaluru City, have remained unaffected by the Modi undercurrent because of their work and proximity to the voters. “They are assets we cannot afford to lose,” said this leader.

The strategy for their appeasement, as of now, appears to be to accept the offer of resignation made by some of the other party loyalist-ministers to make way for the disgruntled MLAs to keep the coalition breathing.

The latest one to offer to step down has been party trouble-shooter and water resources minister DK Shiva Kumar.

It is in this context that one of the first things that chief minister HD Kumaraswamy would be doing on Saturday evening, soon after his return from his private visit to the US, would be to convene the meeting of the state cabinet where the resignation letters of party loyalists of both the Congress and the JDS would be accepted.

But all eyes would also be on Kumaraswamy himself as to how he would implement his threat of weaning away MLAs from the BJP side as well. This was a threat that he had publicly held out when the Operation Kamala 3.0 failed to take off some months ago. Kumaraswamy is well known to have close connections with legislators across all parties.

Clearly, Monday would be a day of reckoning in some ways because the BJP is bound to present a bouquet of resignations to mark the return of Kumaraswamy from his foreign trip.

“There are quite a number of legislators from both the Congress and the JDS who are keen to jump ship. They will come out in the open slowly,” said a BJP leader on condition of anonymity.

The plan now is to ensure that by the time the assembly meets on July 12, the BJP would be in a position to move a no-confidence motion against the Kumaraswamy ministry.

“Talk of Kumaraswamy resigning before that is bunkum. He will face the assembly just as his father (former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda) did in 1997 in the Lok Sabha even though he was certain that he had lost power,” said a JDS leader, again, on condition of anonymity.

In short, it means that Kumaraswamy, on his part, and the Congress, on the other, will milk the issue of being thrown out of power despite waiving farm loans of over 17 lakh farmers through their coalition government.

Meanwhile, there appears to be a change in strategy on the BJP side as well. In principle, the party appears to have decided not to go in for mid term elections but to get BS Yeddyurappa sworn in as chief minister once the coalition government has been brought down.