Four Congress lawmakers who had gone missing for several weeks amid the political turmoil in Karnataka surfaced here this morning, two days after the party recommended their disqualification to the state assembly speaker.
The legislators - Ramesh Jarkiholi, Umesh Jadhav, B Nagendra and Mahesh Kumtahalli - had kept the party on tenterhooks for several weeks, skipping the ongoing assembly budget sessions since February 6 and insistently defying its whip to attend Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meetings on January 18 and February 8. The four - who were said to be in touch with the BJP - attended the assembly session today, bringing some relief to the ruling coalition.
The lawmakers have been disgruntled ever since Mr Jarkiholi was removed from the cabinet as part of a reshuffle-cum-expansion exercise on December 22.
Mr Kumtahalli admitted that there was a misunderstanding with the party leadership, but asserted that he would vote for the Congress in the budget if there was a need. "I'm not a child for someone to hold me back... there was some misunderstanding and it was supposed to get over soon. It just got extended," he said.
News agency PTI quoted Mr Jarkiholi as saying that he had not indulged in anti-party activities or even challenged its high command. "I was in Mumbai to prepare for my daughter's wedding, which is to take place on February 24. I was meeting my relatives, and in the evening, I will be going to Mumbai again," he said.
The senior party leader told the news agency that Congress Legislative Party leader Siddaramaiah was free to pursue his petition to disqualify him if he wanted to do so. "Let's see... I had told you earlier also that I am always ready to resign. If they want to disqualify me, let them do it. I am all alone," he said, adding that his differences with BJP politicians are only at an ideological level. Both Mr Nagendra and Mr Jadhav told PTI they had not come back "out of fear" but to ensure that the finance bill was passed. The next move will be decided after consultations with the party leadership, they added.
Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, meanwhile, remained tight-lipped about ordering an anti-corruption bureau investigation into an audio clip that allegedly has BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa trying to lure Janata Dal(Secular) legislator Naganagouda into switching sides. The state BJP has termed the clip as "fake", and filed a complaint against Mr Kumaraswamy.
Another Congress legislator, JN Ganesh, has been missing ever since he allegedly assaulted fellow-lawmaker Anand Singh during a brawl at a resort recently.
(With inputs from PTI)
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