BENGALURU: Karnataka's Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government, on the verge of losing its majority after 14 exits, won a breather as Speaker Ramesh Kumar decided that the resignations were not in order. None of the lawmakers had met him, Kumar told the Governor in a letter. While this buys the ruling coalition a little more time, more exits may be inevitable. A dozen Congress lawmakers skipped a meeting despite compulsory attendance. Three of them called in sick.
The Speaker, who was not in office when 13 rebel Congress and JDS lawmakers submitted their resignations on Saturday, said he would act according to the constitution. "The MLAs have not given letters as per law, so they have to come again and give me. Out of 13 resignations, eight are not in order," he said.
If the resignations stand the Speaker's scrutiny, the Congress-JDS coalition's 118 members in the 224-seat state assembly will come down to 102 and the majority mark will drop from 113 to 105. The BJP has 105 members and the support of the two Independents, which takes its tally to 107.
Congress leader Siddaramaiah warned of action against the dissident lawmakers. He said he had asked the Speaker to not only disqualify them but also ban them from contesting polls for six years.
A lawmaker who did attend the meeting, Sowmya Reddy, indicated she was not ruling out resigning. "I am not really sure," she said, when asked about the coalition's survival. Sowmya Reddy's father Ramalinga Reddy is among the lawmakers who quit on Saturday. "My father did this because he had been upset about double standards," Sowmya said.
The dissident lawmakers who resigned, both from the Congress and JDS, moved out of a luxury hotel in Mumbai as their parties desperately reached out to them, and are at another unknown location. The rebels were shifted out of the Sofitel in Mumbai after Youth Congress workers protested outside the hotel.
All coalition ministers quit on Monday to make room for the dissident lawmakers as the Congress and JDS went all out to try and bring them back. To prevent more exits, the JDS has put up its remaining lawmakers to a resort of the outskirts of Bengaluru. Sources said the party has also booked 35 rooms in Paddington Resort in Kodagu.
Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, who cut short a private visit to the US and returned to handle the crisis, said all Congress and JDS ministers had resigned and a cabinet reshuffle would take place soon. "The government will survive," he said.
The coalition's troubles deepened after two independent lawmakers, who were made ministers last month in an attempt to consolidate numbers, resigned and pledged support to the BJP.
Congress leader DK Shivakumar accused the BJP and its Karnataka chief BS Yeddyurappa of engineering the resignations and then ferrying the lawmakers to Mumbai on special flights. Congress MPs staged a walkout in parliament to protest against what they allege are the BJP's machinations to seize power in Karnataka.
The BJP, which failed to form government in Karnataka last year after falling short of a majority, has denied any role in the coalition crisis and has demanded that the Congress-JDS combine be thrown out as it is now in a minority. The party is holding protests in districts outside Bengaluru, saying the coalition has lost the moral authority to rule.