Karnataka: As more Congress MLAs return, all eyes on party meet today

Seeking to put up a show of strength following the BJP’s alleged bid to dislodge the seven-month-old Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka, the Congress has ordered all its MLAs to attend its legislature party meeting on Friday, warning that disciplinary action will be taken against anyone who stays away.

In letters sent to all the party MLAs, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah has said that any absence “will be viewed seriously and it will be considered that you have voluntarily decided to leave the primary membership of the Indian National Congress’’. Siddaramaiah said he was confident that all the 79 party MLAs would be present.

While seven Congress MLAs were reported to have rebelled earlier, the party has, over the last two days, managed to establish contact with its missing legislators.

On Thursday, B Nagendra, MLA from Bellary Rural, appeared in Bengaluru and announced that he was with the Congress. Another MLA from Bellary, J N Ganesh from Kampli, also returned and said reports of his defection were false.

Earlier, two other MLAs from Bellary region — Anand Singh from Vijaynagar and Bheema Naik from Hagaribommanahali — also declared that they were not leaving the Congress.

Anand Singh and Nagendra also appeared before a Bengaluru court on Thursday in connection with an illegal mining case. Speaking at the court premises, Nagendra said he had not gone missing. “I often travel to Mumbai and other places. I am not going anywhere. I will attend the CLP meeting if I do not have to appear in court,’’ he said.

Two other Congress MLAs — Ramesh Jharkiholi and his close associate Mahesh Kumatahalli — have also been contacted and may attend the CLP meeting, said party sources.

While the Congress and JD(S) have accused the BJP of indulging in “dirty politics’’, the BJP, whose MLAs were holed up in a hotel in Gurgaon over the last few days, has blamed internal conflict within the Congress.

“No one from the BJP was involved in an operation to attract Congress and JD(S) MLAs. All our MLAs were at one place to discuss plans for the Lok Sabha polls. Now, they are all coming back,’’ said state BJP president and former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, who returned to Bengaluru on Thursday.

While several senior BJP leaders returned on Thursday to visit an ailing 111-year-old seer, Shivakumara Swami, from the Lingayat community — which forms a key vote base of the BJP in Karnataka — the remaining MLAs are expected to return on Friday and Saturday.

Asked if the threat to the Karnataka government was over, a senior BJP leader said: “There was no threat, there is none, the situation is the same.” BJP leaders said they would “watch the developments in Bengaluru on Friday”.

In the 224-member assembly, the Congress-JD(S) has the support of 117 MLAs. The BJP has 104 MLAs and there are two Independents and a BSP MLA.

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