Distancing himself from the charge that the BJP was behind the resignation of the 17 disqualified MLAs, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Monday said the party had nothing to do with it and they were free to take whatever steps they wished to do so.
He was reacting to Opposition Congress leader Siddaramaiah's allegation that the BJP was behind engineering the defections of the rebel legislators and destabilising the then coalition Congress-JD(S) government.
Siddaramaiah had demanded that Mr Yediyurappa quit his post, as also party president Amit Shah.
"We have no connection with the resignation of the 17 disqualified MLAs. Further, what they want to do is left to them," Mr Yediyurappa told reporters in Bengaluru.
A purported audio clipping of Mr Yediyurappa expressing anguish against leaders at a recent party meeting in Hubballi over their opposition to giving tickets to disqualified Congress-JD(S) MLAs for the December 5 assembly bypolls in 15 assembly constituencies had surfaced on Friday.
In the audio, he is heard saying that the rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs, who were later disqualified, were kept in Mumbai during the final days of the coalition government under BJP national president Amit Shah's watch.
He had hit out at party leaders for lack of support in "saving" the BJP government and not recognizing their "sacrifice", behind party coming to power.
The Chief Minister alleged that Siddaramaiah had doctored the audio clipping in a bid to create ''confusion'' among people.
"Just see to what extent he has gone! He says Union Home Minister Amit Shah too has to resign. He should be ashamed of saying so," the Chief Minister said.
He recalled Siddaramaiah's objectionable remark in Dharmasthala on August 31, apparently directed at the Janata Dal (Secular), his party's ally in the previous coalition government.
The Congress-JD(S) alliance government collapsed on July 22 after the confidence motion moved by the then-Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy was defeated in the state Assembly.
"When you were responsible for their resignation, how suitable it for your stature to level baseless charges against BJP?" asked Mr Yediyurappa.
Challenging the leader of opposition to face the December 5 bypolls to 15 out of 17 seats represented by disqualified MLAs, he said it was entirely upto them to decide what they wished to do.
"Who will give them ticketwhether we, you or the JD(S) or will they contest as independent candidates, it is their choice to contest wherever they want to contest.How I am related to it?" Mr Yediyurappa asked.
At Belagavi, Siddaramaiah dismissed the charge that the Congress had doctored the audio clipping and pointed out that the Chief Minister himself had admitted that it was his voice in it.
He demanded to know who were there in the core committee meeting and who recorded the statement.
"Either Nalin Kumar Kateel, Laxman Savadi or Basavaraj Bommai''s son might have done it. After recording it, who released it to TV channels? Who brought out the truth? They only released it. Now they are blaming others," Siddaramaiah said.