Much din in Karnataka House: Cops rescue captive MLAs

Bengaluru: Congress party's kotwal (sentinel) and Karnataka's water resources Minister DK Sivakumar went into a fire-fighting mode in rain-drenched Mumbai to ''rescue'' the rebel MLAs held ‘captive’ in Renaissance Hotel. However, the rebel MLAs refused to meet Sivakumar, who had flown from Bengaluru on Wednesday morning. The MLAs remained cooped up inside the hotel while Shivakumar was kept out by the Mumbai Police; the police denied entry on the basis of allegations of threat to life made by the rebel MLAs in a late night letter.

Meanwhile, two Congress MLAs tried to resign amid high drama. As MLAs MTB Nagaraj and K Sudhakar tried to submit their resignation to the Speaker of the Assembly, Congress leaders stormed into the Vidhana Soudha and physically prevented them from proceeding to the Speaker's chambers. Dr Sudhakar was even held by the collar and shoved into the office of former minister KJ George.

As the MLAs were being held captive, Governor Vajubhai Valla had to intervene and ordered the city police commissioner to rescue the two MLAs. The police had a tough time as Congress MLAs and leaders had formed a protective ring around George's room. Finally, in the evening, the MLAs were rescued. The lawmakers accused the Congress of trying to use force to detain them.

Ironically, both the MLAs are loyalists of former chief minister Siddaramaiah and this triggered rumours that probably he is orchestrating the resignation drama to get even with the JD(S), especially HD Deve Gowda who once threw him out of the party. (As tension escalated, Section 144 has been imposed at the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru from July 11 to 14.)

On Wednesday, Nagaraj had stated that MLAs were quitting the coalition due to the frequent interference in their constituencies and ministries by Chief Minister Kumaraswamy and his brother H D Revanna. Nagaraj, who is a member of the OBC Kuruba community, is one of the richest MLAs in Karnataka with huge land interests.

The second MLA Sudhakar was part of a rebel Congress group that was lured by the BJP in January ahead of an assembly session. He returned to the Congress fold after the BJP aborted its plans to get a large number of MLAs to defect following the release of an audio recording by Kumaraswamy of conversations of BJP leaders negotiating with an MLA's son.

With the resignation of the two Congress MLAs, the total of coalition MLAs who have resigned is 16. If the resignations are accepted by the Speaker the strength of the coalition will fall to 101 compared to the BJP's 105 plus two Independents. Meanwhile, the rebel MLAs who had put in their resignations on Wednesday have moved the Supreme Court over Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar's delay in accepting their resignation letters.

They said the Speaker is only using delaying tactics in order to save the Government. The counsel for the rebels pleaded for urgent hearing and the court agreed to hear the plea on Thursday. The rebels alleged that the Speaker is not acting constitutionally and is only buying time to save the Government.

On Tuesday, the Speaker said he could take at least six days to look into the resignations of 13 MLAs - 10 of Congress and three of JD(S). “Every step I take will become history, so I can't be committing a mistake,” he added. Kumar said he needs to be convinced that the resignations are “voluntary” and “genuine”. Meanwhile, the BJP has decided to intensify their protests and petitioned the Governor to dismiss the Kumaraswamy government. The party also demanded immediate convening of the Assembly session.

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