The Janata Dal Secular-Congress government in Karnataka has pulled back from the brink of a crisis triggered by two exits on Tuesday, alongside reports of "missing" Congress members. 100-odd BJP lawmakers camping at a Gurgaon resort heightened the suspense, but they will all be back by tomorrow, said their leader BS Yeddyurappa on Thursday.
As he returned to Bengaluru this morning, Mr Yeddyurappa denied any "Operation Lotus (BJP's symbol)" - the term Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and the ruling coalition used as they accused the BJP of launching efforts to take power by poaching rival legislators.
"I want to ask the Congress, what operation we were performing," Mr Yeddyurappa asked, reacting to the Congress saying Operation Lotus had fizzled out. He lobbed allegations of poaching right back at the ruling alliance.
"Instead, they are the ones claiming that many of the BJP MLAs (legislators) are in contact with them. The Chief Minister himself has offered one of our MLAs money and promised him a ministry too. So, it is JDS and Congress leaders that are trying to poach MLAs and not BJP."
Mr Yeddyurappa said 104 BJP legislators stayed at a luxury resort in Gurgaon this week only to "discuss strategy" for the national election due by May.
The legislators were flown to Delhi on the weekend, when the BJP held a leadership conclave. When the event was over, the Karnataka lawmakers, instead of returning to Bengaluru, were sequestered at the resort near Delhi.
"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," Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara of the Congress said last evening after two party lawmakers who had been "missing" returned.
Bhima Naik and Anand Singh surfaced outside the guesthouse where the lawmakers of the ruling alliance were meeting.
The Congress had said that these two and three other lawmakers were "out of touch" with the party. Three of them were said to be at a hotel in Mumbai, closeted with BJP leaders who were trying to persuade them to switch sides. Chief Minister Kumaraswamy had said all three were in touch with him "constantly".
"We are aware of what has transpired there and how much has been offered to them," said DK Shivakumar, state minister and Congress trouble-shooter.
Home minister MB Patil told NDTV: "The role of (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and Amit Shah has been exposed. The MLAs were offered ministries and cash."
Mr Naik told reporters the problem was that one of his two phones was switched off. "I was in touch with Congress leaders. It is a lie to say I was with the BJP."
All Congress lawmakers have been asked to be present at a legislature party meeting on Friday. They have reportedly been warned that those who fail to show up can face the anti-defection and will be assumed to have left the party.
On Tuesday, as the two independent legislators withdrew support, it jolted the coalition but the Chief Minister said he had long expected it, that his government is absolutely safe and he is "totally relaxed".
The JDS-Congress have 118 in the 225-member Karnataka assembly where the majority mark is 113. With 104, the BJP needed the resignation of 14 ruling alliance members to form government with the support of the two Independent members.
For days, there had been a huge buzz that the BJP had launched a bid to take power ahead of the national election and was trying to split the coalition ranks. The speculation revived the term "Operation Lotus", first used in 2008 when the BJP allegedly engineered defections of opposition legislators to ensure that its government headed by Mr Yeddyurappa remains stable.
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