'Missing' Karnataka Congress Lawmaker Back, Says "Phone Was Switched Off"

Bhima Naik told reporters, "I have two numbers. One was switched off. It was not with the BJP".

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The JDS-Congress combine is down to 116 lawmakers in the 224-member Karnataka assembly.


Bengaluru: 

Highlights

  1. On Monday, Congress said five of its lawmakers "out of touch"
  2. Congress later said three of them were at a hotel in Mumbai
  3. They were closeted with BJP leaders, Congress alleged

Two of the Congress lawmakers in Karnataka, missing since the weekend, are back. Bhima Naik, the lawmaker from Hagaribommanahalli, surfaced this afternoon  -- a day after his party colleague Anand Singh. Denying that he was in talks with the BJP, he claimed that he was in constant touch with his party. The lawmaker was seen outside the guesthouse where legislators of the ruling alliance are meeting to discuss the turbulence that started with allegations and counter-allegations of attempted poaching.

On Monday, the Congress had said five of its lawmakers had been "out of touch". Later, the party said three of them were at a hotel in Mumbai, closeted with BJP leaders who were trying to persuade them to switch sides.

Chief Minister HD 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 the trouble-shooter of the Congress.

Mr Naik told reporters that his party had not been able to contact him possibly because of an issue with his phone. "I have two numbers. One was switched off," he said, adding that he had not been with the BJP.

The Congress has called for a legislature party meet on Friday and claims all its lawmakers will turn up. Eshwar khandre, working president of the state Congress, told NDTV, "All the MLAs with us."

The Congress claimed the poaching bid was part of the BJP's attempts to destabilise the alliance government and capture power through "Operation Lotus" -- a term coined in 2008 when the party allegedly engineered defections of opposition legislators to ensure that its government headed by Mr Yeddyurappa remains stable.

Yesterday, two Independent lawmakers supporting the alliance government withdrew their support.  

The BJP had been claiming that Mr Kumaraswamy's Janata Dal Secular was trying to poach on its lawmakers -- a charge denied by JDS patriarch and former prime minister, HD Deve Gowda.

Both Congress and alliance partner Janata Dal Secular said they have the numbers and the government is safe. Mr Kumaraswamy said he was "totally relaxed".

Denying any complicity in the matter, the BJP has ferried all 104 of its lawmakers to a luxury resort in Gurgaon near Delhi. The official reason was that the party was preparing the leaders for the coming national elections.

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