As five Karnataka lawmakers went "incommunicado" on Wednesday morning, an orange alert went out across the Congress-Janata Dal Secular (JDS) combine, which claims enough numbers to form government, with a few to spare, following a hung verdict in the state.
- 3 Congress, 2 JDS lawmakers went "incommunicado" today
- Congress leaders say there are plans to sequester their legislators
- Some Congress, JDS legislators are in touch with us, says BJP leader
Hours later, the Congress said all but one legislator were on board. The party said it would parade its lawmakers before Governor Vajubhai Vala on Wednesday evening.
"All of them are with us, we will parade them before the government if necessary," said one Congress lawmaker. The governor later told the party that there was no need to parade them.
Later in the evening, the governor invited BJP's BS Yeddyurappa to take oath as chief minister tomorrow, and gave him 15 days to prove majority. The BJP emerged as the largest party in Karnataka but missed the magic number of 112 by eight seats. The Congress has won 78 seats and the JDS's 38. Along with two independents, the combine claims a comfortable majority.
A meeting of the newly-elected Congress legislators was delayed in the morning as the party couldn't communicate with three of its lawmakers, Rajshekhar Patil, Nagendra and Anand Singh. Anand Singh and Nagendra are close to the Reddy brothers, who are linked to the BJP. Anand Singh was missing till late in the evening.
Dinesh Gundu Rao, the Karnataka Congress working president later insisted that they had been able to reach out to all lawmakers and not one had deserted them. "All 78, plus on independent legislator are with us," he said.
Two JDS members, Raja Venkatappa Nayaka and Venkata Rao Nadagouda, were also missing from their party's meeting at a five-star hotel in Bengaluru.
Another Congress lawmaker claimed he had been approached by the BJP, which had yesterday asked the governor for a chance to prove its majority.
"I got a call from the BJP leaders. They said come to us and said we'll give a ministry to you. We'll make you a minister. But, I'm going to stay here. HD Kumaraswamy is our chief minister," said Amaregouda Linganagouda Patil Bayyapur.
A JDS lawmaker Sarvanna has reportedly said four or five of his colleagues were approached.
Outgoing chief minister Siddaramaiah of the Congress, however, denied the "missing" reports. "All the Congress MLAs are intact. Nobody is missing. We are confident of forming the government," he said as he arrived at the Congress party headquarters for the lawmakers' meeting.
Congress leaders say there are plans to sequester their legislators. "They (BJP) are poaching our MLAs, and we know that. Every day, there is a lot of pressure. But it is not so easy as two parties have the necessary numbers. However, we are taking all necessary steps," said Congress leader DK Shivakumar.
A BJP leader said on record that his party is in touch with Congress and JDS legislators. "The people of Karnataka have believed in BJP, (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and Amit Shah. That is why the BJP will form the government here. A lot of people are angry within the JDS and within the Congress. They will come to BJP," said BJP leader KS Eshwarappa.
The Karnataka verdict has left room for negotiations as the BJP is desperate for numbers, allege Congress and JDS leaders.
The fear of "MLA shopping" was raised yesterday by JDS leader HD Kumaraswamy, who is looking to become chief minister with the support of the Congress despite his party finishing third.
Mr Kumaraswamy accused the BJP of launching "Operation Lotus Part 2". In 2008, in the manoeuvre that critics dubbed "Operation Lotus", at least six JDS and Congress resigned and crossed over when the party was short of a majority.