The Congress and the JD(S), which plan to form a coalition government in Karnataka, alleged on Wednesday that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was trying to poach their lawmakers but separately claimed later that the attempts so far had failed.
In the state where both camps said they were confident about forming a government, murmurs of poaching gained ground on an action-packed day, when JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy accused the BJP of doling out a bribe of Rs 100 crore and triggered a backlash.
A day after both camps met the governor to stake claim, media reports suggested three Congress lawmakers — Rajshekhar Patil, Nagendra and Anand Singh — were untraceable even as their party leaders went into a huddle in state capital Bengaluru.
Soon after, former prime minister Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular) held its legislative party meeting in the state capital. News agency ANI reported lawmakers Raja Venkatappa Nayaka and Venkata Rao Nadagouda did not attend the event.
“We are all together. All this is false news. In fact, there are six BJP people who are in touch with us,” said Congress leader MB Patil amid suspense over government formation in Karnataka.
BJP’s Basavaraj Bommai, a former minister and the son of ex-chief minister SR Bommai, said his party was not “approaching any individual” but stressed that “politics is an art of possibility”, according to ANI.
In a fractured mandate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP made inroads into Karnataka by winning 104 seats but fell short of majority. The Congress (78 seats) and the JD(S), which won 37 seats, said they had the numbers to run the 224-member House. The bloc also claimed the support of two independents and an MLA belonging to JD(S) ally BSP.
The BJP elected chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa its party leader in a legislative party meeting on Wednesday. The 75-year-old Lingayat leader came calling to the Raj Bhavan for the second time since Tuesday’s verdict and said the governor had promised to take an appropriate decision.
Earlier in the day, Congress leaders met at their headquarters in Bengaluru, where senior leaders are camping to oversee the political overtures in the state that is crucial to the party in national politics.
Following a string of election losses, the Congress now holds power in Punjab, Mizoram and the Union Territory of Puducherry. It has ruled Karnataka for the past five years.
Congress leader DK Shivakumar said he was aware of what he termed the BJP’s attempts at poaching MLAs, and said his party had taken preventive steps.
“Yes, definitely there is a plan. We have to safeguard our MLAs, We will let you know what the plan is,” ANI quoted him as saying.
JD(S) leader Sarvana said: “I don’t know what they (BJP) are offering but they are trying to call our people, but they are not responding. We are all together, no one can touch our party. Our party MLAs are loyal to the party.”
Kumaraswamy, a former CM and the son of Deve Gowda, said: “We have already decided to go with the Congress…There is no question of taking any other decision.”
At a press conference after the JD(S) meeting, the 58-year-old leader who has been elected the legislative party leader said: “This attempt by the BJP to poach our legislators will backfire as there are people who are willing to leave the BJP to support us (JD-S).”
Reacting to the charges, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said the rival camp was levelling “baseless charges against the BJP”
“Rs 100 crore figure (mentioned by Kumaraswamy) is not only imaginary but it is what Congress-JD(S) do politics through. We are going by rules. We have submitted our claim to the governor. We are confident of forming the government,” ANI quoted him as saying.