Bangalore/Panaji: The crisis in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Saturday deepened, with more party legislators, including two who returned to the party fold in the last two days, joining the rebels in Goa while a dissident minister said he was returning to the party fold.
Excise Minister M.P. Renukacharya, who spearheaded the latest revolt against the party leadership, returned to Bangalore from Goa, expressing support to beleaguered Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who will seek the trust vote October 11 to save his 29-month-old first BJP government in the southern state.
Meanwhile, BJP lawmakers S.K. Bellubbi and Shivanagouda Naika, who pledged support to the government Thursday, made a u-turn and flew to Goa with party legislator Manappa Majjala to increase the number of rebels to 19, including six Independents.
"Bellubbi and Naika have come back. They are joined by Majjala and Shankarlinge Gowda to be with the rebels, who have decided to defy the party whip and vote against the trust vote Monday," Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) state president and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswmy told reporters in Bangalore.
JD-S MP N. Cheluvaryaswamy escorted the rebel legislators to Goa in a helicopter on the directions of Kumaraswamy and JD-S supreme H.D. Deve Gowda.
Speaking to reporters in Goa before his return, Renukacharya said: "I have left the rebels for good, as they refused to toe the party line and save the government from the present crisis. They are carried away by false promises made by the rival JD-S and the Congress, which have been conspiring to bring down the government during the last fortnight."
He also alleged that the JD-S had promised ministerial berths to all the rebels and Rs.25 crore if they vote against the confidence motion and facilitate alternative government with the support of the Congress.
Even as the nine party rebels, camping at Goa with five independents remained incommunicado, state Infrastructure Minister G. Janardhana Reddy, who rushed to Goa Thursday as an emissary to pacify them, left the resort and headed to Hubli in north Karnataka after apparently failing to make the rebels fall in line.
Karnataka Agriculture Minister Umesh Katti, who was also in Goa, accused the JD-S and the Congress of "kidnapping the rebel BJP legislators and whisking them away from Goa to an unknown destination" so as to prevent them from returning to the party fold.
"Senior Goa police officials were used to physically shift the legislators out of a hotel (Taj Exotica), with the help of hired goons," Katti told reporters in Panaji.
However, one of the rebels denied Katti`s allegations.
Saying the rebels had walked out of the negotiations on their own, Karwar legislator Anand Asnotikar told reporters at the Dabolim airport that that a final call on whether to support the BJP government in Karnataka or not would be taken later.
"We are not children that someone can just drag us out of hotel. We are flying to Bangalore. A final decision on the support issue will be taken by tonight," said Asnotikar, a former minister in the Yeddyurappa government.
Earlier in the day, BJP leaders claimed that most major issues raised by the dissenting Karnataka legislators had been resolved. North Goa BJP MP Shripad Naik said that things were optimistic for the party.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka BJP issued a three-line whip to all its 117 legislators to vote in favour of the confidence motion and warned the rebels of expulsion and disqualification from the assembly if they defied the whip.
JD-S also issued the whip to its 28 legislators, including Channapatna lawmaker M.C. Ashwath, whose whereabouts have been not known since Thursday, to vote against the motion.
Expressing confident that Yeddyurappa would sail through the trust vote, party`s state unit president K.S. Eshwarappa told reporters that assembly Speaker K.G. Bapaiah would disqualify all the 11 dissident legislators against whom a show-cause notice was issued Friday for a reply by 5 p.m. Sunday.
Among the other charges against the rebels are joining hands with the JD-S and independents to reduce the government to minority and creating political instability in the state.