A fresh political war erupted in Karnataka Monday as the ruling Congress-JDS coalition and BJP accused each other of making a renewed bid to poach MLAs, with chief minister H D Kumaraswamy saying he has "sufficient numbers" to run a stable government. Amid speculation that six to eight Congress MLAs are ready to jump ship to the BJP side and some lawmakers of the ruling coalition have gone incommunicado, Kumaraswamy said there was no question of "instability" in his government.
As the Congress-JDS combine accused the BJP of luring away its MLAs offering bribes and other allurements, BJP state chief B S Yeddyurappa rubbished reports that his party was attempting 'Operation Lotus' to topple the government. He said there was no truth in the charge and alleged that the Congress-JD(S) combine was trying to woo his party MLAs. Media reports about Congress MLAs willing to cross over to the BJP and some remaining incommunicado fuelled speculation about a possible threat to the government.
Adding to the speculation was BJP holding up all its 104 MLAs, who had gone to the national capital for the party national council meeting, in Delhi itself and having meetings. 'Operation Lotus' is a reference to the BJP allegedly luring several opposition MLAs to defect to ensure the stability of its then-government headed by B S Yeddyurappa in 2008.
"I have sufficient numbers for giving a stable government here, it is not necessary for Congress or JD(S) to poach the MLAs from BJP, we have sufficient numbers," Kumaraswamy said. Kumaraswamy said he enjoyed the support of 120 MLAs and Yeddyurappa was making "futile attempts" to destabilise his government.
"In which BJP MLAs name rooms were reserved in which resort, how many rooms were reserved. How many Congress-JD(S) they were making attempts to lure and take them away..don't I have the information," he said. "The coalition government enjoys the support of 120 MLAs," he said. He also said, "I have noticed reports in sections of the media (about 'Operation Lotus'). Today too I saw a media report stating that on January 17, President's rule will be imposed in the state. I don't know who is feeding such reports to the media. I was surprised to see the report."
Asked about Water Resource Minister D K Shivakumar's claim that three Congress MLAs were camping at a hotel in Mumbai in the "company of some BJP leaders", Kumaraswamy said, they were in constant touch with him. Not revealing their names, he said "They are my friends. Those MLAs in Mumbai or 104 BJP MLAs who are in Delhi are all my people, so there is no question of instability to this government." "(The Congress) MLAs have gone to Mumbai after bringing it to my notice; they are in constant touch with me," the chief minister said. "I spoke to them at 7:30 in the morning. They have gone for personal reasons, and there is no need to add politics to it," Kumaraswamy said. "If my government is facing instability, is it possible for me to be at ease?" he asked.
Shivakumar had on Sunday said the BJP's 'Operation Lotus' was for real, alleging that three Congress MLAs were camping in a Mumbai hotel. He had said the chief minister was being "lenient" towards the BJP, by not exposing it. "BJP members have gone for their executive meeting and to plan a strategy for Lok Sabha polls to win more seats. What should I do if their meeting is being seen as a threat to this government?" the chief minister asked. Kumaraswamy said he knew all about who the BJP was contacting and what kind of offers it was using to lure them.
He expressed confidence that no MLA from the ruling coalition would defect to the saffron party. Deputy chief minister and senior Congress leader G Parameshwara also said the government was stable. Asked about the Congress MLAs camping in a Mumbai hotel, he said "Let them be..why they have gone, nobody knows. They might have gone on holiday or to visit temples or meet leaders." Accusing the BJP of trying to poach Congress MLAs, Parameshwara said it would not be successful.
Hitting back, Yeddyurappa told reporters in New Delhi, "despite having a majority, Congress-JD(S) combine is trying to lure our MLAs and indulging in horse-trading, BJP is not doing it. We with 104 MLAs are ready to work as opposition peacefully." Accusing the Congress-JD(S) coalition of trying to create confusion, he asked it to focus on developmental works and said BJP was ready to function as a "sincere" opposition. "They are trying to lure our people with money and Minister's position. We have not done this to any Congress-JD(S) MLAs. Kumaraswamy is doing it," he added.
Yeddyurappa said the BJP legislators would be in New Delhi for "one or two days" and would later go to their constituencies and begin preparations for the Lok Sabha polls in all the 28 constituencies. Reports suggest that BJP legislators in Delhi were likely to be shifted to Gurgaon, to keep its numbers intact, with Congress and JD(S) allegedly planning to poach BJP MLAs as a retaliatory measure to Operation Lotus.
However, Yeddyurappa clarified "There is no need for us to do any "resort politics", we are not doing also", he said, adding that "a few of them will be in Delhi, a few are going to Gurgaon, they will go and come back. "There is not even an iota of truth in BJP taking some ruling coalition MLAs to Mumbai...only Congress-JD(S) know (why their MLAs are stationed in Mumbai), we don't know about it," he added In the 224-member Assembly, BJP has 104 members, Congress-79, JDS 37, BSP, KPJP and Independent one each, besides Speaker. BSP, KPJP and an Independent are supporting the coalition.
(With inputs from agencies.)