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Published On: Wed, Jan 16th, 2019

Two Independent desert, Congress-JD-S coalition in Karnataka

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Yeddyurappa_HDK_SiddaramaiahBy M CHENNA NAGRAJ
NEW DELHI: The withdrawal of two Independent legislators to the Kumaraswamy led Janata Dal (Secular) Government in Karnataka has dented the confidence of the leadership of the fragile alliance in the ongoing high drama where the Opposition BJP has ensconced its 80 of its vulnerable MLAs in a five star resort in the Aravali range in Haryana to protect them from being poached by the ruling coalition partners.
The two MLAs including Mr R Shankar MLA from Ranebennur who was dropped from the Cabinet in the last month’s expansion withdrew their support on Sankranti day, an important festival of the state causing a lot of anxiety in the coalition leadership. Mr H Nagesh from Mulabagal was the other person.

They are expected to give their letter of withdrawal to Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala today. Since both are Independents, they are not covered under the anti-defection laws.The withdrawal will certainly not endanger the Government at this point of time as the coalition enjoys the support of 117 MLAs in the 224 Member house. Speaker of the Assembly has been elected on the Congress party ticket. The minimum number required for a bare majority is 113.
There have multiple cases of legislators jumping ship and of being disqualified under the anti-defection law, but the BJP, JD(S) and the Congress will want to remember what happened in neighbouring Tamil Nadu. Defection, horse trading and poaching has threatened the stability of the eight-month-old coalition government in Karnataka. This, after two independent MLAs withdrew support to the JD(S)-Congress combine, while at least three Congress MLAs have reportedly promised support to the BJP.

If the BJP does manage to poach enough MLAs, Governor Vajubhai Vala will have to convene the Karnataka Assembly and order the HD Kumaraswamy-led government to take a floor test. While the two independent MLAs, who withdrew support to the coalition, can vote for or against the confidence motion, anti-defection laws apply to Congress MLAs who jump to the BJP.
Despite many efforts to dislodge the coalition by the opposition BJP, the party had not succeeded despite being the the single largest party with 104 MLAs and the desertion of the Independents is regarded as a serious setback and the first dent for the ruling coalition. The Congress has 80 MLAs while and JD-S has 38 members which includes a member of the Bahujan Samaj Party.
There have been media reports suggesting that dissident Congress MLAs ranging from four to six have reached a five star hotel in Mumbai. The fact that there was an emergent meeting of the top party and the government at Kumara Krupa, the State Guest House in Bangalore brass in the presence of Congress party’s Incharge K C Venugopal on a Sankranti holiday itself is a clear indicator that the party is very worried about the developments when the elections to the Lok Sabha are due in under three months time. 
While BJPs announced and unannounced efforts to topple the Government did not meet any success, the recent Cabinet expansion has only speeded up the dissident activities.  The dropping and replacement of Ramesh Jarakiholi from the Cabinet  and replacing him with his brother Satish Jarakiholi from Belagavi district has triggered the crisis for the Government and the former minister has stayed incommunicado even for his minister brother, let alone the party. He is believed to be the fulcrum for the dissidents majority of them from the Congress party who could not make it to the Cabinet high table.
Publicly, both parties are putting up a brave face and say that there was no danger to the stability of the government. But beneath the surface, both parties are alarmed and quietly preparing for saving the rest of the MLAs from being poached.
One JD-S Minister even warned of a reverse poaching of BJP MLAs and the names of the BJP MLAs who were in touch with his party would be known once they moved out of Haryana resort. This obviously is the reason, the party brought most of its MLAs to the national capital for attending the National Council meeting. The state leadership has extended their stay in the five star comforts in the serene surroundings in Haryana.
At stake in the ongoing battle for the coming Lok Sabha polls where the BJP has a daunting task of saving its 17 seats won in 2014 in a triangular contest. It has to win maximum number of seats in the coming polls to stake claim in the next government at the Centre.
The recent Lok Sabha by-election from Mandya in Karnataka has left the ruling allies strained. Though the JD-S retained seat by a huge margin but with Congress officially staying out of contest to support the ally.
But this commendable victory has opened the Congress wounds who fear that their solid support base has eroded because its rank and file obviously migrated to the BJP transforming an insignificant player in hotbed of Vokkaliga politics as a credible force capable of taking on the JD-S in its strong fort. Its support base has swelled tenfold, and the party is sensing victory in this defeat.

The relationship between the allies has also been strained leaving a feeling of distrust in both parties. Congress which has 80 seats is not allowing chief minister to have his say on crucial issues pushing him to exhibit his emotions and helplessness in public.
Peeved over the treatment it was receiving from the Congress, the JD-S leadership was maintaining an ambivalent stand on its support to the Congress bid for the Prime Ministership despite being given the chief ministers post in Karnataka. JD-S supremo H D Deve Gowda perceives a chance for himself in the race in the event of a hung parliament as his party has kept all its options open without any official announcement. The party which had pre-poll alliance with the Mayawati’s BSP for the LS poll too till recently maintained strategic silence on the issue of next PM, a post the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister is eagerly aiming.


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