Bengaluru: Ahead of the crucial Congress Legislature Party meeting on Friday, more party MLAs allegedly under the BJP's radar for desertion returned home, giving the H D Kumaraswamy-led coalition government hopes of averting a crisis.
As Congress stepped up its efforts to quell dissidence, BJP state chief B S Yeddyurappa arrived in Bengaluru, asserting his party was not involved in any operation to topple the government.
He said his party MLAs were also flying back from Gurgaon, where they are staying for the past few days.
Slamming the BJP for making "futile attempts" to destabilise his government, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy accused it of keeping the saffron party's MLAs in "confinement" at Gurgaon.
Grappling with the political turmoil triggered by reports of the BJP luring Congress MLAs to take a fresh shot at government formation, Kumaraswamy rejected its charge that he was trying to poach their lawmakers.
Friday's CLP meet is expected to be a show of strength for the Congress, in a counter to BJP's alleged toppling bid which the ruling coalition has said has turned out to be a "flop".
In a notice issued to Congress MLAs, CLP leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah warned that absence of MLAs at Friday's meeting would be viewed "seriously".
"I would like to bring to your notice that your 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," he said and added that action would be initiated under the Anti-Defection Law.
Speaking to reporters at Hubballi, Siddaramaiah claimed that all the party MLAs would attend the CLP meeting.
Asked if disgruntled MLAs coming back into the party fold would be made ministers, Siddaramaiah said, "We have not told anyone that we will make them minister or any other thing. There is no disgruntlement in the Congress."
In a breather to the Congress, a few more MLAs who had allegedly gone incommunicado and were on the poaching list of BJP surfaced, declaring allegiance to the party.
Yellapur MLA Shivram Hebbar who met KPCC chief Dinesh Gunduu Rao on Thursday said he had gone to Andaman and Nicobar Islands with family, as per the plan made about a month ago. Terming the timing as "coincidence", he said, "I'm a worker of the Congress. I have got elected from the party, and there is no question of getting sold for any reasons."
Another Congress MLA J N Ganesh from Kampli termed reports that he had planned to switch to BJP as a "creation" and "false". "I only want development of my constituency, allurement for money, horse trading are all very petty things to do.I even feel ashamed to talk about it," he added.
Congress MLA from Ballari B Nagendra said he was in Mumbai for personal reasons, business and other things. "I keep going to Mumbai… so that doesn't show that I'm in touch with some one. I'm not disgruntled... not going (to BJP)," he said in response to a question.
Nagendra, however, expressed doubt about attending the CLP meeting tomorrow, citing a court hearing.
Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru, Kumaraswamy said Yeddyurappa making repeated claims that Congress-JD(S) leaders, especially the Chief Minister, were luring his party MLAs, was "surprising" for him. "They are making all kinds of futile attempts (to destabilise the government). Who is taking the lead and working (to lure MLAs)?" he said.
"...today I want to ask Yeddyurappa and his friends, how long have you been staying at a hotel in Gurugram, for what sake have you kept MLAs in confinement?" Kumaraswamy asked.
Accusing the BJP of "doing everything" to poach MLAs with allurements, he said, "but now you are blaming us, if you feel that people will accept whatever you say, you are wrong. People will give answer to BJP leaders at the right time."
On his part, Yeddyurappa said, "No one from BJP has indulged in any kind of operation or luring Congress-JD(S) MLAs. We had gathered all our MLAs at one place and were discussing preparations for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls for the last two-three days. Today all are coming back."
"Why do they have to fear if we gather our MLAs, I don't understand.Internal fight within Congress and JD(S) is going out of control, to cover up their internal squabbles, they should not blame BJP," he added. "If your MLAs have gone to Mumbai or Delhi, what do we have to do with it? It is -Congress-JD(S)- your duty to keep your legislators intact. No one is in touch with us... I'm telling you," Yeddyurapa said.
"Who are they to ask where we are going? You try to keep your MLAs intact, why are you blaming us?" Yeddyurappa said, adding that "how many will come (for the CLP) will be known, their true colours will come out tomorrow."
Political turmoil has hit Karnataka since Monday amid reports that the BJP was allegedly making a renewed bid to dislodge the seven-month-old coalition government.
Both the ruling coalition and BJP have been levelling charges of horse trading against each other....