A group of “missing” Congress lawmakers in Karnataka is the biggest clue that the BJP has set “Operation Lotus” in motion, the party said today even as its partner, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, dismissed any threat to his coalition government.
The Congress has called a meeting in Bengaluru in the backdrop of its worry about “Operation Lotus”, which describes allegations that the BJP is trying to draw away ruling coalition lawmakers and take power in the state. The term was first used in 2008, when the BJP was accused of inciting several opposition legislators to defect to ensure the stability of its government headed by BS Yeddyurappa.
Five Congress lawmakers appear to be out of contact with their party, though ally Mr Kumaraswamy claimed they were in touch with him.
“All of them (Congress MLAs) are continuously in contact with me. They went to Mumbai after informing me. My government isn’t under any threat,” the Chief Minister said indignantly.
Mr Kumaraswamy, who took charge as chief minister in May after his Janata Dal Secular and the Congress formed an alliance, added: “I know who all the BJP is trying to contact and what they’re offering. I can handle it…”
His deputy G Parameshwara of the Congress echoed him: “BJP leaders are saying this government will fall. But it won’t happen. Some of our MLAs have gone, they can go for temples, holiday, family outings, we don’t know. Nobody said that they’re going to join BJP and destabilise the government. All our MLAs are intact.”
Among the “missing” lawmakers is Ramesh Jarakiholi, who was dropped recently by Mr Kumaraswamy in a cabinet shuffle and had threatened to quit the Congress.
The others are Anand Singh, B Nagendra, Umesh Jadhav and BC Patil.
The Congress’s troubleshooter in Karnataka, DK Shivakumar, who played a big role in keeping the party’s lawmakers together in the race for numbers after a fractured verdict in last year’s polls, said yesterday that all of them are at a hotel in Mumbai in the company of BJP leaders.
“Horse trading is going on in the state. Three of our MLAs are in Mumbai in a hotel with some BJP MLAs and leaders. We are aware of what has transpired there and how much has been offered to them,” he said.
More damningly for the ruling coalition, Mr Shivakumar, a minister, also said the chief minister “is a bit lenient” towards the BJP. “By lenient I mean he is not exposing the facts he knows. All the MLAs conveyed to the chief minister about the ongoing conspiracies. They also told Siddaramaiah (former Congress chief minister) about it… If I was in his place, I would have exposed it within 24 hours,” Mr Shivakumar said.
Many Congress lawmakers in Karnataka have claimed that they were approached by the BJP leaders to quit their party and join them.
The BJP has trashed the charges, saying the coalition partners were hiding their weaknesses and internal conflict by making false accusations.
“There is no truth to all these rumours. This is between the Congress and JDS. We are not in touch with any of their MLAs. We are only focused on keeping our MLAs energised,” said former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa of the BJP.
Daily activity of @hd_kumaraswamy government
Morning : Make fake promises in media get full coverage & enjoy breakfast
Afternoon : Cry operation Kamala, hide failure to run govt by blaming BJP
Night : Fight among themselves for power & go to sleep
Next day : repeat..
– BJP Karnataka (@BJP4Karnataka) January 14, 2019
Sources, however, say while the party is not in favour of making any major move in Karnataka before the national election due by May, Mr Yeddyurappa has other ideas.
In the 224 member Karnataka Assembly, the BJP has 104 lawmakers and is far short of the halfway mark of 113 needed for a majority. Even if the lawmakers quit the Congress, the coalition government will still have the numbers to survive.