Striking a defiant note, the four Congress MLAs who had failed to turn up at the January 18 CLP meeting, remained absent on the first day of the Karnataka assembly session, which began here Wednesday. The MLAs—Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumtalli, Umesh Jadhav, and Nagendra—did not ascribe any reason for not attending the opening day's session. On Tuesday, a whip had been issued to all MLAs of the ruling JDS-Congress coalition to be present in the assembly on all days of the budget session.
The whip was seen as a move by the ruling coalition to pre-empt any plans of disgruntled Congress MLAs on the radar of BJP to stay away from the assembly and pose a threat to the stability of the government. Meanwhile, former chief minister and Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah served a second notice to the MLAs who did not turn up for the CLP meeting.
While the first notice was served on January 28, the second was given on Monday. "Yes, Siddaramaiah has served notices on the four Congress MLAs," said a source close to the Congress leader. Siddaramaiah noted that despite the earlier notice served to them, seeking an explanation for failing to attend the CLP meeting, the MLAs had not turned up.
"Even though nine days have passed [since the first notice was served], you did not give any explanation about your absence."
"Hence you are directed to meet me at the CLP office before or during the assembly session on February 6 and give your explanation," Siddaramaiah said in a letter to Mahesh Kumtalli, a copy of which is with PTI.
"The contents of the letters to other three MLAs is identical," said a source in Congress. The four MLAs were allegedly upset with the party for not being inducted into the Kumaraswamy cabinet. Ramesh Jarkiholi remained inaccessible to party leaders and had his mobile phone was switched off. The Congress-JD(S) coalition government had received a setback on January 15 when two independent MLAs H. Nagesh and R. Shankar withdrew support to the Kumaraswamy government.
Dealing a further blow to Congress, reports emerged that at least 20 Congress MLAs too had gone missing just around thetime when 104 BJP MLAs were huddled in a resort in Gurugram.
Congress and the JD(S) had alleged that the BJP indulged in horse trading to pull down the government. Congress had, however claimed that all its MLAs were intact and nobody would defect.
To substantiate its claim and to put up a show of unity to allay doubts, the Congress decided to convene a meeting of fits MLAs on January 18.
However, the four MLAs did not show up.