Bengaluru: In a blow to the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in Karnataka, two Congress legislators – rebel MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi and Anand Singh – on Monday sent in their resignations from the state Assembly.
In his hand-written letter in Kannada, faxed to the office of Assembly Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar, Jarkiholi complained his party had “ignored” his seniority after dropping from the Cabinet last year.
“I have resigned as Gokak legislator for being ignored by the party and the coalition government,” he said.
His resignation came within hours of Anand Singh, who represents Vijayanagar in Ballari, quitting to protest the Congress-JD-S coalition government’s plans to sell over 3,667 acres in Ballari to JSW Steel Ltd.
“I have submitted my resignation letter to Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar at his residence, as I am unhappy with the coalition government’s decision to sell the land to Jindal,” Singh told reporters after meeting Governor Vajubhai Vala at the Raj Bhavan to explain his reasons for resigning.
“As I said last month that I would resign if the state government went ahead with the lease-cum-sale deed agreement with the Jindal steel company for mining in the entire area, I have submitted my resignation to the Speaker as I am willing to sacrifice anything for the welfare of my people,” he said.
A three-time MLA from the mining-rich district, Singh was Tourism Minister in the B.S. Yeddyurappa-led BJP government (2008-13) and had joined the Congress before the 2018 Assembly election.
On bail after the CBI arrested him in October 2013 for his alleged involvement in the multi-crore iron ore export scam from the state’s Belikeri seaport, Singh was also in the news in January when fellow party MLA J.N. Ganesh, whose Kampalli Assembly seat is also in Ballari, allegedly assaulted him at a resort near here in a drunken brawl.
After the Lok Sabha election, the state Cabinet decided to sell the mining land to Jindal steel plant at the cost of Rs 1.20 lakh per acre.
Former Congress minister K.H. Patil also opposed the sale though the state government claimed that it was only honouring the lease-cum-sale agreement entered by the then government in 2006-07 when Kumaraswamy headed the then JD-S-BJP coalition set-up.
The twin resignations came at a time when Kumaraswamy is in the US since June 30 on a week-long private visit along with two JD-S ministers.
“Kumaraswamy called up Jarkiholi and Singh later and advised them to withdraw their resignations and wait for his return from the US by this weekend to address their concerns and grievances,” a party official told IANS.
Singh has also urged the state government to carve out Vijayanagar as a separate district.
“I will wait for the response of the coalition government to my demands and decide my next course of action,” he said.
Denying that he had resigned to return to the BJP as part of the saffron party’s “Operation Lotus”, to poach away rival party legislators, Singh said he was not in touch with any of its leaders.
“I also clarify that I am not blackmailing the government because I have not been made a minister or hoping to become chairman of any state-run board or corporation,” he added.
In a press communique, the Speaker’s office confirmed receiving Singh’s resignation letter, adding it “will take action in accordance with the rules of procedure and conduct of business” of the Assembly.
In the event of the Speaker accepting the resignations of Singh and Jarkiholi, the strength of the Congress will reduce to 76 from 78, excluding the Speaker.
With 37 of the JD-S and the support of one Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) legislator, one from KPJP (regional party) and an independent, the strength of the JD-S-Congress government will be 116, which is three above the halfway mark of 113 for a simple majority in the 225-member Assembly, including one nominated.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 105, which is eight short of a simple majority.
Karnataka Pragyavantara Janata Paksha (KPJP) lawmaker R. Shankar and independent H. Nagesh were made Cabinet ministers on June 14, ostensibly to prevent the BJP from poaching them, as they withdrew support to the coalition government in January.
Jarkiholi and Shankar were dropped from the Cabinet in a minor re-shuffle of the Cabinet on December 22, 2018.
Jarkiholi’s elder brother Satish was inducted into the Cabinet as a minister in December.
A split verdict in the May 2018 Assembly election threw up a hung house with none of the three mainstream parties able to form the government without the support of the third among them.
With both the ruling allies winning only one Lok Sabha seat in the recent general election despite contesting jointly in all 28 parliamentary seats from the southern state under a pre-poll alliance, the coalition government has been fearing revolt by dissidents in the Congress over denial of Cabinet posts or heads of boards or corporations.
An official of the Speaker’s office, however, told IANS that Jarkiholi’s resignation would not be considered for acceptance as he has to give the letter to the Speaker in person.