NEWS
16/01/2019 7:08 AM IST

'Resort Politics' Back In Karnataka: BJP MLAs Shifted, Congress-JD(S) Alleges Poaching

Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy is unfazed by the developments and said that his government is stable.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images

‘Resort politics’ has made a return to Karnataka with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress-JD(S) coalition accusing each other of trying to poach MLAs.

Two independent MLAs announced on Tuesday that they were withdrawing support to the government helmed by HD Kumaraswamy. H Nagesh (independent) and R Shankar (KPJP) wrote to Governor Vajubhai Vala, conveying their decision to withdraw their support with immediate effect.

Both lawmakers, who are staying at a hotel in Mumbai, sent identical letters to the Governor and requested him to take “necessary action”, a move that reduced the ruling coalition’s strength to 118, but still kept it in the safe zone in the 224-member assembly.

“I worked as a minister for 6-7 months thanks to the blessings of my constituents. But I wanted to do more work and since I did not get the government’s backing I am taking back my support to the government,” Hindustan Times quoted Shankar as saying. 

During the ministry formation exercise after the May 2018 assembly polls, Shankar had announced support to the BJP, but made a last-minute switch towards Congress.

Nagesh, a former Congress member, had contested and won as an independent candidate after not getting the party ticket.

Neelanjan Sircar, a senior fellow at Centre for Policy Research, told HuffPost India that one of the biggest challenges with the political system is that “the individual politician has no partisan integrity, they are not necessarily ideologically tied to any party”.

Deputy chief minister G Parameshwara told Hindustan Times that BJP was in touch with five Congress MLAs and said that the party is trying hard to destabilise the Karnataka government.

Karnataka govt unfazed

Chief Minister Kumaraswamy seems to be unaffected by the developments, though. “What is going to happen if two independents declare support (to BJP)? What will be the numbers? I am totally relaxed. I know my strength.”

JDS chief and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda also said nothing would happen to the government headed by his son.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
A file image of BJP state president BS Yeddyurappa.

AICC General Secretary KC Venugopal also brushed aside any threat to the coalition government and said it would continue despite the BJP’s “ugly and dirty” horse-trading attempts.

Venugopal alleged that the MLAs of the Congress-JD(S) ruling combine were being offered a “lot of things” by the BJP to switch sides.

‘Operation Lotus’

 BJP’s Ram Shinde said on Tuesday that the two MLAs must have thought that they should join BJP that received the mandate instead of those who formed unnatural alliance. 

“I’m getting a feeling that Operation Lotus will be successful in the coming days,” he added.

‘Operation Lotus’ is a reference to the BJP’s alleged bid to tempt several opposition MLAs to defect to ensure the stability of its then government headed by BS Yeddyurappa in 2008.

Yeddyurappa, former chief minister Jagadish Shettar and other senior leaders like Shobha Karandlaje are among the 104 MLAs staying in the ITC Grand Bharat resort in Hasanpur Tauru in Nuh district since Monday.

Sources told PTI the BJP legislators have been shifted to the resort in an attempt to keep the flock together and thwart any poaching attempt by the Congress-JD(S) combine.

“We are staying in the resort. We don’t know how long we are going to be here,” Shettar told PTI.

Yeddyurappa has rubbished reports about the BJP attempting ‘Operation Lotus’ to topple the government and said there was no truth in it and alleged that the Congress-JD(S) combine was trying to lure Opposition MLAs.

‘Resort Politics’

This is not the first time when ‘resort politics’ has played out in India. According to Livemint, it was pioneered by late Andhra Pradesh chief minister NT Rama Rao around 1984. Since then, ‘resort politics’ has been used by political parties in states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.

Earlier last year, when Karnataka had a split verdict during the assembly polls and BJP was a few seats short, Congress and JD(S) had huddled its MLAs together in a resort to prevent poaching. 

According to an Economic Times report, Karnataka has become a hub for “resort politics”.

The BJP has also resorted to this in Maharashtra. According to The New Indian Express, at least 39 corporators from the Latur Municipal Corporation, including 34 from the BJP, were sent to a resort in Goa ahead of the legislative council election on 21 May last year.

In Tamil Nadu, TTV Dinakaran had shifted his loyal MLAs in October last year to a resort amid reports that the E Palaniswamy and O Panneerselvam government was trying to poach the MLAs loyal to him.

Even in 2017, 18 MLAs who supported Dinakaran were sent to a luxurious seaside resort to “relax and rest”. Sources had told The Times of India that the MLAs enjoyed a walk on the seashore and relished a wide range of seafood delicacies and beverages in a buffet.

(With PTI inputs)

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