Press Trust of india

Karnataka crisis: Cong seeks disqualification of rebel MLAs; one more quits

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Bengaluru, Jul 9 : Fighting to save the coalition government in Karnataka, the Congress Tuesday sought the assembly Speaker's intervention in disqualifying its rebel legislators and accused the BJP of using money power to lure its members after another MLA quit the party.

In a counter offensive after 13 MLAs resigned Saturday dealing a blow to the 13-month-old government, a delegation of Congress leaders met Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar and submitted the petition seeking, under the anti-defection law, disqualification of the rebel legislators in line with the decision taken at a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) Tuesday.

The move comes a day after all the ministers in the Congress-JDS coalition government resigned, paving the way for a cabinet reshuffle to accommodate disgruntled legislators.

Even as the CLP took the decision to petition the Speaker, party's Shivajinagar  MLA R Roshan Baig, who was suspended recently for alleged anti-party activities, put in his papers.

"Today I have submitted my resignation from the Karnataka Assembly to the Speaker," Baig told reporters here, three days after 13 MLAs -- 10 of Congress and three of JDS -- quit from the government headed by H D Kumaraswamy.

The rebel MLAs, camping in Maharashtra, however, appeared undeterred by the Congress's disqualification move and said there was no question of them withdrawing resignations.

"There is no question of us withdrawing resignation. We have resigned voluntarily and have not indulged in any anti-party activity," Congress MLA S T Somasekhar told reporters.

Two other rebel MLAs - Ramesh Jarkiholi and Byrati Basavaraj -- also echoed similar views.

Briefing media after meeting the Speaker, state Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao said according to the CLP decision, they submitted the petition seeking action against the MLAs "who have resigned and have joined hands with the BJP to bring down the government".

The anti-defection law applies to them, he claimed, adding further action will be taken by the Speaker. "I hope that they will be disqualified to save democracy."

The Speaker, who was expected to examine the resignations submitted by the 13 MLAs Tuesday, later said he had asked the Congress leaders to place material evidence, if any, (in support of their petition) on July 11 and on hearing them he would decide on the next course of action.

Earlier, the CLP meeting, the first after the present crisis hit the government, saw 20 MLAs, including the 11 who had tendered their resignations, being absent.

Congress sources said seven MLAs had sought permission to skip the meeting citing health grounds among other reasons.

Emerging from the meeting, CLP leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah asked the party MLAs who had resigned to come back or face the consequences.

He alleged that these rebel MLAs have "colluded with BJP and at the behest of the BJP these people are trapped".

AICC General Secretary K C Venugopal, Gundu Rao, KPCC Working President Eshwar Khandre, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara among others were present at the meeting.

However, the party has decided not to seek disqualification of seven-time MLA Ramalinga Reddy, as he has made it clear he was not quitting the party, Rao said.

Congress leaders and MLAs staged a dharna in front of the Gandhi statue at Vidhana Soudha, the state secretariat, for an hour after which they submitted the petition to the Speaker.

Noting that the act of MLAs attracted provisions of the anti-defection law, Siddaramaiah said along with disqualification, "we have also requested that they should not be allowed to contest election for six years. I hope the Speaker will act according to the provisions of the act."

He alleged the BJP in an anti-democratic way has been indulging in destabilising the democratically elected governments in Karnataka and other states.

Siddaramaiah claimed ever since the coalition government was formed in Karnataka, the saffron party had been "continuously and constantly" trying to topple it.

Five times they have attempted to destabilise the government, this is their sixth attempt, they are trying to destabilise this government, he said, as he alleged that the national leaders of party including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah were directly involved.

The BJP has been rejecting allegations of its involvement in the resignation of the MLAs.

Siddaramaiah also said all MLAs had been asked to attend the assembly session, starting on July 12, without fail.

The CLP meeting discussed the ongoing political developments and all the MLAs who attended have reiterated their loyalty to the party, he said.

Alleging that BJP was luring the MLAs with money, he questioned "where did the money come from? With money power and political power they are trying to destabilise the government."

"Some of our MLAs have fallen into the trap of BJP, I dont know whether they have understood the provisions of law or not, the provisions of the 10th Schedule- anti-defection law," he said.

The ruling coalition faces the threat of losing its majority if the resignations of the rebel MLAs are accepted.

The JD(S)-Congress coalition's total strength is 116 (Congress-78, JD(S)-37 and BSP-1) besides the Speaker.

With the support of the two independents, who Monday resigned from the ministry, the BJP has 107 MLAs in the 224-member House, where the half-way mark is 113.

If the resignations of the 14 MLAs are accepted, the coalition's tally will be reduced to 102. The Speaker also has a vote.

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