Gujarat Congress Lawmakers Go Into HuddleTo Discuss Election Strategy


Party’s leader of opposition Paresh Dhanani was also present at the meeting. (Representational)

Ahmedabad: 

With the Lok Sabha elections just months away, Gujarat Congress MLAs Tuesday went into a huddle to chalk out the party”s strategy and planned a series of events to drum up support, its leaders said.

Party MLAs met in Gandhinagar to decide the course of action for the upcoming general elections, state Congress in-charge and MP Rajiv Satav told reporters.

State Congress chief Amit Chavda said, “The party decided to organise programmes like Jan Vedana Yatra, Khat Parishad, Lok Charcha, and Parivartan Sankalp in the coming days to mobilise support ahead of the general elections.”

Most of the 76 Congress MLAs were present at the meeting held at the circuit house, where talks were held on the party’s strategy for the upcoming budget session of the Assembly, he added.

Party’s leader of opposition Paresh Dhanani was also present at the meeting.

Each Congress MLA has been asked to adopt two Assembly constituencies to prepare for the election.

“We are going to focus on all 26 Lok Sabla seats. We are confident of winning all these seats. The MLAs presented their reports today on the (party’s position in) two Assembly constituencies (adopted by each of them), and the report is encouraging,” Mr Satav said.

According to Mr Chavda, the party will organise Khat Parishad (meetings in rural parts) and mohalla meetings across the state in the next one week.

“After these two events, we will hold Jan Akrosh Rally to raise the issues of farmers, unemployment, corruption. Jan Vedana and Lok Darbar programmes will be organised ward-wise and in all zilla parishads in the coming days,” he said.

The BJP government has failed in fulfilling the expectations of all sections of the society, he said.

“People are angry as the BJP government has failed on all the fronts, including education, employment and healthcare,” he said.

Alpesh Thakor was among the Congress MLAS who did not attend the meeting.

 





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Karnataka BJP Lawmakers Return From Gurgaon Resort Stint


Bengaluru: 

Karnataka BJP MLAs have returned to the state from Gurgaon where they were lodged in a private resort for the past few days.

State BJP president BS Yeddyurappa had asked all 104 party MLAs to return and they flew back to the state late Saturday night, BJP MLC Lehar Singh told PTI.

“Some of them have directly flown back to their constituencies and others including former deputy chief ministers R Ashoka and K S Eshwarappa returned to Bengaluru,” he said.

With the Congress on tenterhooks to keep its numbers intact, the party’s MLAs are remaining sequestered in a resort on the city outskirts fearing a poaching bid by the BJP.

Mr Yeddyurappa had said the BJP would not destabilise Karnataka’s ruling coalition.

“Let the Congress-JD(S) leaders not have any doubt about it,” he said, after chinks in the ruling coalition were exposed when four MLAs skipped the Congress Legislature Party meet on Friday.

As the fissures became evident, the Congress on Friday swiftly moved all its MLAs to the resort in a bid to “escape” the BJP’s alleged bid to woo its MLAs.

Top Congress sources had said on Friday that at least eight party MLAs have “committed” themselves to BJP. The BJP also announced that a seven-member team led by mr Yeddyurappa would tour drought-hit districts from Monday.

Former Karnataka chief minister and Congress leader Siddaramaiah had welcomed BS Yeddyurappa’s decision to call back all BJP MLAs and asked him to “walk the talk” on not trying to destabilise the ruling coalition.

“I welcome Yeddyurappa’s decision to call back the BJP legislators from Delhi and send them to monitor the drought management in the state,” he said in a tweet.

Congress minister D K Shivakumar said he was in touch with all the MLAs.

Asked about senior ministers resigning to accommodate disgruntled legislators in the cabinet, he said, “I have voluntarily offered (to resign)…in the interest of the party. If my leaders want, I’m ready.”





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BJP Says Resort Where Congress Lawmakers Are Staying Owes 982 Crores To Karnataka Government


Bengaluru: 

Alleging that the resort where the Congress legislators were staying fearing poaching owes Rs 982 crores to the Karnataka government as a penalty in a land encroachment case, the state BJP on Saturday asked the Congress leaders to collect the amount and use it to waive farm loans.

“Eagleton resort owe GOK Rs 998cr Penalty amount in land encroachment case.

“Now that Congress Party will spend time in resort we request ”Maryada Purushothama[email protected],@DKShivakumar &@dineshgrao to collect this money (sic) while u return U can use it for farmer loan waiver,” Karnataka BJP said in a tweet, citing media reports.

After the crucial legislature party meeting on Friday, the Congress had shifted all its legislators to Eagleton Resort to “escape” allegedly from the BJP’s “onslaught”.

Recently, during the assembly session at Belagavi district, replying to a question raised by JD(S) leader AT Ramaswamy, Revenue Minister RV Deshpande had said the state government will take all measures to collect Rs 982 crores from the resort for encroaching upon 77 acres of government land.

Member of Parliament from Bengaluru (rural) D K Suresh, who was reportedly overseeing the stay of the MLAs at the resort, told reporters that the encroachment case was before the court and the facilities were not being provided for free.

“During the Siddaramaiah government itself, about 20 acre was got released and taken position after measurement. It (the case) was before the court. The resort will not provide us facilities for free,” he said in response to a question on the issue.

He said the party will pay the money and submit a payment bill if anybody wants it to do that.

It was at this very resort that the Income Tax department had conducted raids on senior Congress leader and minister DK Shivakumar in 2017, when he was hosting 44 Gujarat lawmakers to prevent the BJP from allegedly “poaching” them during the Rajya Sabha polls in that state.





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4 Lawmakers Still Missing, Karnataka Congress Holds Legislature Party Meet At Bengaluru Resort


Congress lawmakers at the Eagleton Resort in Bengaluru.

New Delhi: 

The Karnataka Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting began at Bengaluru’s Eagleton Resort this evening, a day after lawmakers from the party were shifted there amid fears of poaching by the opposition BJP to topple the coalition government in the state. The Congress rules the southern state in alliance with the Janata Dal (Secular).

The Congress legislators, who were moved to the resort directly from the Vidhana Soudha on Friday evening, are likely to remain there until all the BJP lawmakers return from the Gurugram resort they were staying in. “They were taken to the resort to keep them safe from the BJP,” Siddaramaiah, former Chief Minister and leader of the Congress legislature party, told NDTV back then. The party currently has 76 of its 80 legislators in the resort, with four still missing.

The four Congress lawmakers — Ramesh Jarkiholi, B Nagendra, Umesh Jadhav and Mahesh Kumatahalli — had skipped a mandatory CLP meet called on Friday by their party leadership. Although two provided explanations for their absence, all of them have been sent notices and further action may follow.

Meanwhile, the BJP legislators have already started returning to Karnataka. While some — including state party chief BS Yeddyurappa — are already in the city, the rest should be back soon. Mr Yeddyurappa had said that Congress members skipping the CLP meeting and “deep differences” between the coalition partners were indications that the government could “erupt like a volcano” in the coming days.

Both Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) leaders have been accusing Mr Yeddyurappa of offering inducements to Congress lawmakers in a renewed plan to take power in Karnataka before the national election, due by May. They allege that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have masterminded the plan.

The JDS-Congress has a strength of 118 in the Karnataka Assembly, where 113 is the majority mark. The four MLAs have not resigned from the party, and the ruling coalition says it is confident about its survival.





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Where Is PM Modi Getting Money To Poach Lawmakers, Asks HD Kumaraswamy


HD Kumaraswamy said PM Modi’s party was trying to poach Congress legislators by using money.

Kolkata: 

Questioning Narendra Modi over his claims of fighting corruption in the country, Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy alleged that on one hand, the prime minister was talking about fighting corruption and, on the other, his party was trying to poach Congress legislators by using money.

“What you have been watching for one week, (is) how the BJP is trying to destabilise the stable government in Karnataka. I want to put one question to the honourable prime minister: Recently, during his party meeting, he (Modi) said he wanted to remove corruption and clean the country. For this, he requested citizen of the country to support him.

“But what’s going on in Karnataka? Which money they (BJP) are offering to Congress MLAs to support them? From where the money is coming?” Mr Kumaraswamy asked.

When asked about four Congress MLAs missing from the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meeting in Karnataka, Mr Kumaraswamy said, “Nothing will happen, they will also come and join us.”

Four dissidents skipped the CLP meeting in Bengaluru on Friday, which was called as a show of strength to counter an alleged bid by the Bharatiya Janata Party to topple the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition in Karnataka.

Mr Kumaraswamy, who is Kolkata to take part in Opposition rally on Saturday, said the rally would be a memorable day in national politics towards a change in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. 





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Congress Moves Karnataka Lawmakers To Resort “To Protect Them From BJP”


Bengaluru: 

After the BJP’s Gurgaon retreat, it is the turn of Karnataka’s Congress lawmakers for a staycation, at a Bengaluru resort. The same where they were sequestered just seven months ago, when the elections threw up a hung verdict and lawmakers were flying between rival parties.

Four Congress lawmakers were AWOL today as the party rallied its flock for a headcount amid what it suspects is a BJP strategy to topple the Janata Dal Secular-Congress government headed by Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy. Two more rebels had “returned” to the party fold on Wednesday.

The absentees ignored calls, which caused some disquiet among the leadership of lingering attempts to break them.

The 76 Congress lawmakers who did show up for the legislature party meeting were rewarded with an instant holiday package. They were all bundled into buses and driven to the Eagleton Golf Resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru.

“They are being taken to a resort to keep them safe from the BJP,” former chief minister Siddaramaiah, the leader of the Congress legislature party, told NDTV.

Siddaramaiah and another leader, DK Shivakumar, have been accusing the BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa, a former chief minister, of offering inducements to Congress lawmakers in a renewed plan to take power in Karnataka before the national election, due by May. They allege that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah are completely behind the plan.

“All MLAs wanted to show unity, they wanted to send a message. We are sure of our numbers. Everybody is there except three,” said Mr Shivakumar, the Congress’s troubleshooter in Karnataka and the man credited with guarding the flock against “poaching” attempts way back in May, after the state elections.

“We are against resort politics,” he sought to clarify.

Action will be taken against the “missing” lawmakers; Umesh Jadhav, Ramesh Jarkiholi and Mahesh Kumathalli are believed to be at a Mumbai hotel and B Nagendra, the fourth absentee, told reporters he had a court hearing. Ramesh Jarkiholi has been seething since he was dropped as a minister. Well after the meeting began, Umesh Jadhav sent a note saying he was unwell and couldn’t travel.

“I will send notice to the absentees and seek an explanation. Then I will speak to the high command,” said Mr Siddaramaiah.

Eagleton, with a pool, spacious rooms and various sports activities, is tried and tested in “resort politics”. Last year, the same Congress bunch had stayed there during government formation moves. In 2017, the resort hosted Gujarat Congress lawmakers who were in demand ahead of a Rajya Sabha election that became a thriller.

Earlier this week, 104 BJP lawmakers checked into a resort in Gurgaon near Delhi as speculation peaked that the ruling coalition in Karnataka was on the verge of collapse. The buzz intensified after two independent lawmakers withdrew support from the Kumaraswamy-led government.

The Congress repeatedly called it a redux of “Operation Lotus (the BJP’s election symbol)” – the name given for a past BJP attempt to lure away rival lawmakers. The term was coined in 2008 when the BJP allegedly engineered defections of opposition legislators to ensure that its government headed by Mr Yeddyurappa remains stable.

After the return of two lawmakers, the ruling coalition leaders said the BJP had aborted its coup attempt. Mr Yeddyurappa also confirmed that over 100 BJP leaders would finally return to Bengaluru.

The JDS-Congress alliance has 118 lawmakers in the 224-member Karnataka assembly where the majority mark is 113.





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3 Missing Karnataka Lawmakers Spoil Congress Headcount Amid Rebellion


Bengaluru: 

Three “missing” Karnataka lawmakers remain a big worry for the Congress even though the party says it has successfully dodged the BJP’s “Operation Lotus” to topple its coalition government in a coup.

The Congress has ordered all its legislators to show up at a meeting in Bengaluru where attendance is a must and absence will be seen as exit from the party.

The “rebel” Congress legislators are believed to be in a hotel in Mumbai, along with two independent lawmakers. Reports say a BJP parliamentarian, Sanjay Ramchandra Patil, visited the hotel this morning to meet them. Among the legislators is Ramesh Jarkiholi, who was openly upset about being denied a place in Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s recent cabinet expansion.

Former chief minister Siddaramaiah, who is the leader of the Congress Legislature Party, said he had asked Ramesh Jarkiholi’s brother Satish Jarkiholi to call him. So far, it doesn’t seem to have produced any results.

Ramesh Jarkiholi, worryingly for the Congress, has been incommunicado since Tuesday. On Wednesday, two legislators who had gone into “hiding” with him returned to Bengaluru and surfaced near a Congress meeting.

All of Wednesday, Satish Jarkiholi, a first-time legislator who was made a minister in the cabinet rejig even as his brother was dropped, reportedly tried to get him to come around.

“I’m not ordering the legislators to be present. It’s the BJP’s allegation,” said Mr Siddaramaiah, hitting out at the BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa, who has been accused by the Congress of trying to induce its lawmakers to cross over.

“Yeddyurappa was chief minister and has been accusing me of poaching MLAs. Does he have any self-respect,” Mr Siddaramaiah asked.

One of the Congress lawmakers gone AWOL is B Nagendra, who vehemently denies he is in touch with the BJP. “I went to Mumbai for personal reasons. I have business there and go there from time to time. Don’t take it in any other way that I was in contact with someone. I’m not against anyone. I’m not going to BJP. I don’t know about Ramesh Jarkiholi,” Mr Nagendra told reporters.

The Congress rebels camping at a luxury hotel in Mumbai and 104 BJP lawmakers sequestered at a resort in Gurgaon near Delhi this week set the stage for what many believed was a Karnataka coalition crash engineered either by the BJP or within the Congress. The speculation peaked after two independent lawmakers withdrew support from the Kumarasamy-led Congress-Janata Dal Secular government.

The Congress repeatedly called it a redux of “Operation Lotus (the BJP’s election symbol)” – the name given for the BJP’s alleged attempts to lure away lawmakers from the Congress-Janata Dal Secular government.

After the return of two of the missing Congress lawmakers, the ruling coalition leaders said the BJP had aborted its coup attempt.

The JDS-Congress alliance has 118 lawmakers in the 225-member Karnataka assembly, where the majority mark is 113.





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2 National People’s Party Lawmakers Join Congress In Arunachal Pradesh


Itanagar: 

Two National People’s Party (NPP) MLAs in Arunachal Pradesh Thursday quit the party and joined the Congress.

At a function the two NPP MLAs – Tapang Taloh and Rajesh Tacho- joined the Congress and expressed their faith in the leadership of Congress president Rahul Gandhi and PCC chief Takam Sanjoy.

Former ministers and BJP functionaries Komoli Mossang and Lichi Legi also joined the Congress in the function which was attended by Mr Sanjoy at the party headquarters.

The Congress has only three MLAs in the Arunachal Assembly at present. With induction of the two Thursday now its strength has increased to five.

Strength of the NPP in the 60-member Arunchal Pradesh Assembly has come down to five.

NPP headed by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma though a member of BJP-led NEDA but, is not in the government in Arunachal.

BJP has 48 MLAs and it also has the support of two Independents.

Congress legislature party leader Takam Pario said that these leaders will make a difference with the assembly and Lok Sabha elections knocking at the door.





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Karnataka Congress Mocks BJP Lawmakers Retreat On Twitter


Bengaluru: 

Over 100 Karnataka lawmakers of the BJP will return to Bengaluru soon after their three-day stake-out at a luxury resort near Delhi. “Hearty welcome,” sneered the state Congress, which accuses the BJP of a failed attempt to topple its coalition government with the Janata Dal Secular.

“We extend a hearty welcome to all Karnataka BJP MLAs who are returning home after an extended holiday at a luxury resort near Delhi. Now that they are sufficiently rejuvenated let us hope they will attend to the work of their constituencies which they have neglected for long,” tweeted Karnataka Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao.

The BJP lawmakers – all 104 of them – were staying in a five-star resort in Gurgaon where a room costs Rs 30,000. Their leader, former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, and some dozen legislators returned to Bengaluru this morning, saying they wanted to visit a prominent Lingayat seer, Shivakumara Swamiji of Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur, who has taken ill.

Mr Yeddyurappa had said over the last few days that the BJP lawmakers were at the resort to “strategise for the national polls” due by May. When asked about the allegations of Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and the Congress that the BJP was working on “Operation Lotus (the BJP symbol)” – which describes attempts to poach lawmakers and stage a coup – Mr Yeddyurappa claimed it was the Congress and Janata Dal Secular that were trying to induce BJP members to switch. He also said it was the internal Congress rivalry that had caused a crisis in the government.

The ruling alliance seemed to be in for trouble when two independent lawmakers withdrew support, saying they did not trust the Kumaraswamy government. Along with five “missing” Congress legislators, it did not look good. Among those MIA was a Congress leader upset about being left out of the state cabinet.

By Wednesday evening, as two of the “missing” lawmakers surfaced in Bengaluru, denying anything to do with the BJP, the government was confident that the worst was over.

The drama of ‘Operation Kamala’ (lotus) has ended. No attempt to destabilise the coalition government will be effective as we have the support of all our legislators,” Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara of the Congress said.





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BJP Lawmakers To Leave Gurgaon Resort; Operation Lotus Flopped, Says Congress


BS Yeddyurappa said 104 BJP legislators stayed at a luxury resort to “discuss strategy” for elections.

Bengaluru: 

The Janata Dal Secular-Congress government in Karnataka has pulled back from the brink of a crisis triggered by two exits on Tuesday, alongside reports of “missing” Congress members. 100-odd BJP lawmakers camping at a Gurgaon resort heightened the suspense, but they will all be back by tomorrow, said their leader BS Yeddyurappa on Thursday.

As he returned to Bengaluru this morning, Mr Yeddyurappa denied any “Operation Lotus (BJP’s symbol)” – the term Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and the ruling coalition used as they accused the BJP of launching efforts to take power by poaching rival legislators.

“I want to ask the Congress, what operation we were performing,” Mr Yeddyurappa asked, reacting to the Congress saying Operation Lotus had fizzled out. He lobbed allegations of poaching right back at the ruling alliance.

“Instead, they are the ones claiming that many of the BJP MLAs (legislators) are in contact with them. The Chief Minister himself has offered one of our MLAs money and promised him a ministry too. So, it is JDS and Congress leaders that are trying to poach MLAs and not BJP.”

Mr Yeddyurappa said 104 BJP legislators stayed at a luxury resort in Gurgaon this week only to “discuss strategy” for the national election due by May.

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BS Yeddyurappa lobbed allegations of poaching right back at the ruling alliance

The legislators were flown to Delhi on the weekend, when the BJP held a leadership conclave. When the event was over, the Karnataka lawmakers, instead of returning to Bengaluru, were sequestered at the resort near Delhi.

“The drama of ‘Operation Kamala’ (lotus) has ended. No attempt to destabilise the coalition government will be effective as we have the support of all our legislators,” Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara of the Congress said last evening after two party lawmakers who had been “missing” returned.

Bhima Naik and Anand Singh surfaced outside the guesthouse where the lawmakers of the ruling alliance were meeting.

The Congress had said that these two and three other lawmakers were “out of touch” with the party. Three of them were said to be at a hotel in Mumbai, closeted with BJP leaders who were trying to persuade them to switch sides. Chief Minister Kumaraswamy had said all three were in touch with him “constantly”.

“We are aware of what has transpired there and how much has been offered to them,” said DK Shivakumar, state minister and Congress trouble-shooter.

Home minister MB Patil told NDTV: “The role of (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and Amit Shah has been exposed. The MLAs were offered ministries and cash.”

Mr Naik told reporters the problem was that one of his two phones was switched off. “I was in touch with Congress leaders. It is a lie to say I was with the BJP.”

All Congress lawmakers have been asked to be present at a legislature party meeting on Friday. They have reportedly been warned that those who fail to show up can face the anti-defection and will be assumed to have left the party.

On Tuesday, as the two independent legislators withdrew support, it jolted the coalition but the Chief Minister said he had long expected it, that his government is absolutely safe and he is “totally relaxed”.

The JDS-Congress have 118 in the 225-member Karnataka assembly where the majority mark is 113. With 104, the BJP needed the resignation of 14 ruling alliance members to form government with the support of the two Independent members.

For days, there had been a huge buzz that the BJP had launched a bid to take power ahead of the national election and was trying to split the coalition ranks. The speculation revived the term “Operation Lotus”, first used in 2008 when the BJP allegedly engineered defections of opposition legislators to ensure that its government headed by Mr Yeddyurappa remains stable.





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