Foiling an alleged opposition BJP's bid to topple it recently, the ruling JD-S-Congress government in Karnataka is bracing up for a 10-day stormy budget session of the state legislature here from Wednesday. "The ruling allies are upbeat on holding the budget session and passing the finance bill after Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy presents the state budget for fiscal 2019-20 in the assembly on Friday and debate next week," a Congress official told IANS here on Monday night.
The session will begin with the customary address by state Governor Vajubhai Vala to the joint legislature on Wednesday and a debate on the motion of thanks to it (address) initiated on Thursday. "As Kumaraswamy holds the finance portfolio, he will present the budget for the second fiscal year in succession after he read a full budget on July 6 for fiscal 2018-19,a a Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) official told IANS.
With speculation that 4 Congress "rebel" legislators continued to be defiant, the ruling ally is desperately wooing them to ensure their presence in the lower house for passing the budget after debate on it next week. "Though the four MLAs did not participate in the January 18 legislature party meeting here for "personal" reasons, they being non-communicable for long has been worrisome. We hope they will attend the session" said the party official.
The four rebel lawmakers are Ramesh Jharkiholi, Mahesh Kumatalli, Umesh Jadhav and B. Nagendra. Ramesh was dropped as Municipal Administration Minister from the cabinet in a reshuffle on December 22. His younger brother Satish Jharkiholi replaced him but was made Minister for Forests, Ecology and Environment.
"As the party will issue whip for the presence of all its members in the assembly for passing the budget, the rebels will face expulsion from the party if they defy and abstain without credible reason acceptable to our legislative leader (Siddaramaiah) and Speaker Ramesh Kumar," asserted the official. In the 225-member assembly, including one nominated from the Anglo-India community, the Congress has 80, including the speaker, JD-S 37, BJP 104 and remaining are an independent and one each from BSP and KPJP (Karnataka Pragnyavanta Janata Paksha).
The withdrawal of support by Independent H. Nagesh and regional outfit KPJP R. Mahesh on January 15 to the 8-month-old coalition government has queered the pitch, as it survives on a slender majority of 116, with 113 required for a simple majority. Though the BJP has assured the beleaguered allies that it would not bring a no-confidence motion in the assembly during the budget session, the state Congress leaders are wary of the 4 rebels, as their absence or defying the whip would defeat the money bill, resulting in a trial of strength as the ruling majority slips to 112, one less than the 113 half-way mark.
"The budget will get passed and the tottering government may survive the day if Nagesh and Mahesh vote in favour of it on the day of passage," admitted the JD-S official. Mahesh was also dropped from the cabinet on December 22. He was the Minister for Forests, Ecology and Environment.
Nagesh felt betrayed that he was not made a minister despite supporting the allies in forming the government after winning the trust vote on May 25. With Congress President Rahul Gandhi directing the state Congress leaders, to allow the coalition government run at any cost, at least till the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, due in April-May, party's senior leader, minister and trouble-shooter D.K. Shivakumar has been roped in to rein in the rebels, ensure the budget is passed and the government survives.
"The onus of preserving and running coalition government is on the Congress, which extended unconditional support to our party to form it (government) solely to keep the BJP out of power for another five years. As we could win only 37 seats in the May 2018 assembly elections, coming to power has been a divine reward for our leaders and cadres," the JD-S official reiterated. The JD-S has also made the budget passage and continuation of the coalition government criteria for holding talks with the Congress on sharing of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the southern state for the parliamentary polls.
"As stakes are higher for the Congress, it is up to its high command and state leaders to ensure the seats are shared on the respective strengths, with winnability as the criterion for deciding candidates and constituencies than all other factors," the JD-S official added. In the 2014 general elections, the BJP won 17, Congress 9 and JD-S 2 out of 28 parliamentary seats in the state.
(With inputs from agencies.)