“Missing” Congress Lawmaker Reaches Karnataka Assembly, Pushes BJP Men

BENGALURU: The BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa is addressing the Karnataka assembly ahead of trust vote. There was speculation that Mr Yeddyurappa would resign but the BJP insisted he wasn’t going to resign. “We will win,” a BJP spokesman said. The Chief Minister’s BJP is short of a majority and has been accused by the opposition Congress and Janata Dal of trying to bribe and threaten their lawmakers. The Congress has released audio tapes as proof. Pratap Gowda Patil and Anand Singh, the two Congress lawmakers who had been ‘missing’ for days, reached the Karnataka assembly and have taken oath as the members.

Pratap Gowda was not present in the assembly when his name was called out for his oath. Sources say the missing lawmakers are at a hotel after being flown in to Bengaluru on a chartered flight by BJP legislator Somasekhara Reddy. Anand Singh had earlier alleged that he was “kidnapped and threatened with criminal cases”.

Top police officers were seen at Bengaluru’s Goldflinch hotel, where the lawmakers are believed to be present. Sources said the officers went to check if the lawmakers, Anand Singh and Pratap Gowda Patil, had been held captive or were there of their own free will.

The Congress and JDS lawmakers were constantly on the move as their parties tried to sequester them from attempts to bribe, threaten or induce them into switching over to the BJP. They were brought in this morning from Hyderabad in buses after an overnight journey.

The lawmakers had travelled through the night also from Bengaluru to Hyderabad on Thursday night, covering 500 km in an exhausting eight-hour journey that started just after midnight. The Congress and JDS had planned chartered flights out of Bengaluru but they say they were not given permission.

Mr Yeddyurappa said the BJP is confident of winning the floor test. “We have got 100 per cent support and cooperation to prove the majority,” Mr Yeddyurappa told reporters on Friday. The BJP is eight short of the 111-majority mark needed to win.

Yesterday, the Congress alleged audio proof that Janardhana Reddy, the mining kingpin closely associated with the BJP, had tried to bribe a lawmaker. Union Minister Prakash Javadekar rubbished the Congress charge. “There is a reference to Amit Shah in it… Amit Shah doesn’t do this… Several such lies have been exposed,” the senior BJP leader, calling the tape “false propaganda”.

On Wednesday night, a day after Karnataka produced a hung verdict, Governor Vajubhai Vala decided to invite the BJP instead of the Congress-Janata Dal Secular combine, which claimed 117 lawmakers.

The Congress challenged his decision in the Supreme Court the same night. After an all-night hearing, the court didn’t stop Mr Yeddyurappa’s oath ceremony, but said it would continue hearing the case and raised concerns about an “open invitation to horse-trading”.

Resuming the hearing yesterday, the Supreme Court ordered Mr Yeddyurappa to take a strength test today. “Better that the floor test is on Saturday so that nobody gets any time,” said one of the three judges. Mr Yeddyurappa’s request for a secret ballot was also denied.

Another decision by the governor was challenged by the Congress in the Supreme Court. Mr Vala picked BJP lawmaker KG Bopaiah as pro-tem or temporary speaker to preside over the trust vote. The court rejected the petition. The Congress had argued that Mr Bopaiah is not just the wrong candidate in seniority — the senior-most lawmaker in Karnataka is Congress’s RV Deshpande — but he has a history of breaking rules to save Mr Yeddyurappa in trust votes.