The Congress was left red-faced by the absence of many of its lawmakers as the budget session in Karnataka Assembly started today. Alleging that the government has "lost majority", slogan-shouting BJP members disrupted the speech of Governor Vajubhai Vala, forcing him to leave it unfinished.
The conspicuous absence of four lawmakers added to the troubles of the party, which recently needed to reassure the chief minister, HD Kumaraswamy of the JD(S), that they did indeed respect him as the chief minister.
The lawmakers who stayed away --- Ramesh Jarkiholi, Umesh Jadhav, B Nagendra and Mahesh Kumathalli- were also the ones that stayed away from the Congress Legislature Party meet in December. The fifth absentee was KN Ganesh. Wanted by police for an alleged assault on fellow Congressman, Anand Singh, he is still on the run.
Their skipping today's session, despite being ordered by Legislature Party chief Siddaramaiah to meet him ahead of the session, underscored that the troubles of the party are far from over.
Five missing lawmakers matter in the numbers game.
The ruling coalition in Karnataka has 118 lawmakers in the House where the majority mark is at 113. The BJP has 104 lawmakers and the support of two independents, who recently withdrew support from the coalition government.
The Congress says even if not physically present, their legislators are all accounted for. Home Minister MB Patil told NDTV that the lawmakers had skipped the session due to "personal reasons".
But the party's troubleshooter, DK Shivakumar, indicated there was a BJP hand in the picture.
Brushing away any threat to the government, Mr Shivakumar said, "All are on the line, they will all come in the evening. BJP has sent their team of MLAs to hold them, do some magic. No magic can be done".
Denying the BJP has anything to do with the lawmakers' disappearance, its state party chief BS Yeddyurappa said, "Infighting has started. More than 20 lawmakers are saying we will not accept Kumaraswamy as chief minister".
The location of the missing lawmakers is not known. There is speculation that they are in Mumbai or Goa.
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