The political drama over alleged "Operation Lotus" to destabilise the Karnataka government continued on Wednesday with the Congress preparing for an apparent show of strength by calling a meeting of its legislators on January 18 while the BJP kept up suspense with its shepherded MLAs remaining locked up in a luxury resort in Gurugram near the national capital.
Coalition partners Congress and JD(S) claimed that Bharatiya Janata Party's bid to topple its coalition government has failed. Both Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwara claimed that the JD(S)-Congress coalition is safe and they had the numbers. However, senior BJP leader Murlidhar Rao, General Secretary in charge of Karnataka, said the coalition government will fall due to internal rivalry - not the BJP pulling it down.
Top BJP sources said the MLAs in Gurugram may be returning home in the next few days. The MLAs, housed in the ITC Grand Bharat luxury hotel, were unfazed by the winter chill of the north and were seen relaxing or playing cricket and other games on the plush lawns. "All the Congress legislators are with us and everything is all right in the party. Some legislators may be away but they will be back in Bengaluru soon," Parameshwara told the media here. The BJP's 'Operation Lotus' to poach the Congress legislators has come to an end, he asserted.
"The drama of 'Operation Kamala' (lotus) has ended. No attempt to destabilise the coalition government will be effective as we have the support of all our legislators," the Congress leader stressed. "Our coalition government is running smoothly. I am relaxed. We are in touch with all our (Janata Dal-Secular and Congress) legislators and have their support," Kumaraswamy told the media here. Meanwhile, CLP leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah have called a Congress Legislature Party meeting to be chaired by Siddaramaiah on January 18 in the city, in what is considered as a move to show the party's strength to the world.
The meeting will discuss the state Budget that will be presented in February, Parameshwara said. Kumaraswamy also maintained that the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S)-Congress coalition government was functioning well. "Our coalition government is running smoothly. I am relaxed. We are in touch with all our legislators and have their support," Kumaraswamy told the media earlier. The southern state's ruling coalition partners JD-S-Congress and the opposition BJP have been trading charges of poaching each others' legislators for the past few days.
Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said in New Delhi that the "persistent" efforts of the BJP to destabilise the government have failed, leading to the saffron party indulging in spreading rumours of cracks in the government and the party. He said all the 118 MLAs of the coalition are intact and questioned why the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has kept its MLAs in a resort in Gurugram, far away from Karnataka.
On Tuesday, R. Shankar, a legislator from Ranebennur Assembly segment in Haveri district, belonging to the regional Karnataka Pragnavantha Janata Party (KPJP), and H. Nagesh, an Independent from Mulbagal constituency in Kolar district, withdrew their support to the coalition. In the 225-member Legislative Assembly, including one nominated member, the Congress has 80 legislators, the JD-S 37 and the BJP 104, while one Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA continues to support the coalition even after Nagesh and Shankar withdrew their support.
Congress MLA Bheema Naik, who is said to be among the sulking party legislators in Karnataka, said in Mumbai he was very much in the Congress and no one from the BJP has contacted him with an offer in the context of allegations that the Kumaraswamy government was under threat. "I am in Congress. No offer has been made to me. Nobody has approached me. I am in touch with my party (Congress) leaders," he said. Naik, elected from Hagaribommanahalli in Bellary district, is among the five-six Congress MLAs who are said to be unhappy at not being made ministers in the recent reshuffle of the coalition ministry. The Chief Minister and Congress leaders have alleged that the BJP was attempting to destabilise their government and as part of those plans, have taken nearly 100 MLAs to Gurugram.
(With inputs from agencies.)