Do 48 hours really matter in politics? Definitely, it matters a lot. At least the Congress in Karnataka, where its coalition government with the JD(S) is on the verge of collapse, would like to believe so. With the impending floor test set to take place in the assembly on Monday, the national party is playing all last-minute tactics to save the government.
The alliance, hastily stitched up after the 2018 polls, will survive the floor test only if its rebel MLAs, housed in a Mumbai resort, reach the House and vote in favour of the government. This seems to be an impossibility at the moment, considering the political circumstances in the state as well as national level.
The Congress alleges that the ruling MLAs have been poached by the opposition BJP and are held captive in the resort. In trying to woo them back, the party's lone hope is that it could convince the rebel MLAs of the consequences of their decision to stay away from the assembly procedures.
Sixteen MLAs from the ruling coalition -- 13 from Congress and three of JD(S) -- have submitted their resignation to the assembly speaker, who is yet to take a call on the letters.
“They (dissident MLAs) were hoping that the Supreme Court would ask the speaker to accept their resignations. However, the court has directed the speaker to use his discretion. The BJP has made them believe that there won't be any threat of disqualification if they resign. But on Monday, when the assembly meets, they all will still be MLAs and if they choose to abstain from the procedures, they will have to face disqualification,” AICC secretary in charge of Karnataka, P C Vishnunadh, who is camping in Bengaluru, told Onmanorama over phone.
The Supreme Court had recently ruled that the rebel MLAs cannot be forced to take part in the ongoing assembly session. However, the Congress and the JD(S) have moved the apex court seeking clarification in the order saying it obstructs their freedom to issue whip to their MLAs.
Asked if the move to approach the SC was a bid to buy more time to conduct the floor test, a Congress leader said the floor test will happen on Monday even if the SC pronounced its order by then or not.
“If we fall short of majority on Monday, the government will fall. However, we are trying to bring an end to BJP's brazen horse-trading. We want to convince our MLAs that the BJP can't help them at this moment. Those who violate the whip will have to face disqualification anyway,” the leader said.
The leader said attempts were on to bring back the dissident MLAs to the ruling fold. “We have actually given them two days for a rethink,” he said, adding that the coalition leaders have been trying to contact them through some common friends.
He said the MLAs are in the custody of the BJP and their mobile phones have been seized. “Now, even if they want to come back on Monday they may not be allowed,” he added.
However, once they are back, options, including accommodating some of them in the Cabinet, are still open,” the leader said.
The Karnataka Assembly was on Friday adjourned till Monday without a floor test despite Governor Vajubhai Vala extending the deadline he gave on Thursday to Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy for proving his majority.
The government slumped into a minority earlier this month following the resignation of the dissident MLAs. The Congress' strength has been reduced to 65 from 79, including the Speaker, while that of JD(S) to 34 from 37 and their combined strength to 99.
In contrast, the BJP has 105 of its own and a total of 107 with the support of the two independents.
The state Assembly has 225 members, including one nominated MLA. The majority mark in the 225-member Assembly is 113. If the resigned MLAs stay away from the procedures, the total strength would come down to 209 and the minimum majority mark would be 105.