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Karnataka crisis: As JDS, Congress try to keep their flock together, four MLAs go missing

Triggering horse-trading fears, four Congress MLAs have reportedly gone missing, keeping their party and the post-poll alliance partner Janata Dal-Secular on the edge. 

Karnataka crisis: As JDS, Congress try to keep their flock together, four MLAs go missing

NEW DELHI/BENGALURU: Amid a high political drama, the Supreme Court will on Friday resume hearing on Congress' plea regarding Karnataka Governor's decision to invite the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form a government in the southern state.

The apex court will also hear senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani's petition to have an urgent hearing on the same.

While all eyes are set on the top court, four Congress MLAs have reportedly gone missing, keeping their party and the post-poll alliance partner Janata Dal-Secular on the edge. 

According to reports, four Congress MLAs - Anand Singh, Pratapgouda Patil, Kudligi MLA Nagendra and Afzalpur MLA MY Patil – are untraceable since last evening.

If sources are to be believed, these four are believed to be in touch with the Karnataka BJP leaders and may eventually vote in favour of the BS Yeddyurappa government during the trust vote in the assembly.

Two-time Vijayanagara (Ballari) MLA Anand Singh is also reported to be in touch with Congress leader DK Shivakumar and assured him of his unconditional support to the party.

However, some reports claimed that the mining baron from Ballari would resign from the Congress after taking oath as the member of the Karnataka Assembly. It is unclear if he will join the BJP after that.

Congress MLA Pratapgouda Patil, who successfully contested from Maski in Raichur, had left the Eagleton Resort citing poor health. Patil had won for the first time from the BJP ticket in 2008 and contested on a Congress ticket in the recent polls.

Kudligi MLA Nagendra, a relative of B Sreeramulu, and Afzalpur MLA MY Patil are also expected to support the BJP during the trust vote.

Nagendra had contested as an independent MLA in 2008 and contested on a Congress ticket in 2013 and retained his seat. He had presented Congress president Rahul Gandhi a 60 lakh gold coated statue of Valmiki at the time of joining.

Afzalpur MLA MY Patil is also reportedly in touch with BJP leaders and may support the BS Yeddyurappa government, the sources claim.

Triggering horse-trading by BJP, both JDS and Congress had shifted their newly-elected MLAs to safe locations in Hyderabad.  

Congress MP from Karnataka, DK Suresh, confirmed that his party MLAs are coming to Hyderabad and all arrangements are made accordingly. 

Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy has said that the newly-elected MLAs of his party and their Congress counterparts will "stay united at the same place" in order to prevent "horse-trading" ahead of the trust vote in the state assembly.

"There is no question of fear, but we have to take some cautions because of previous experiences. We wanted to take special care to represent their (Congress and JD-S MLAs) living. We are not encouraging horse-trading. To stop it, they are living together," Kumaraswamy had told reporters late on Thursday.

Accusing the BJP of 'misusing its power', Kumaraswamy said that several MLAs have been contacted by the BJP.

"They are misusing the power. They are masters in misusing all constitutional institutions. All MLAs of JD(S) and Congress will stay united at the same place," he added.

However, the Karnataka BJP leaders have categorically denied the horse-trading charges and said that their leader will comfortably prove majority in the assembly.  

On Wednesday, the Karnataka Governor had invited Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) BS Yeddyurappa to form the government and prove majority on the floor of the House in 15 days. 

Following this Congress and JD(S) filed a petition against this decision in top court.

The Congress filed a petition before the Supreme Court to postpone the swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddyurappa, which in an unprecedented overnight hearing on Thursday, refused to put a stay.

The top court sealed the deal in favour of the BJP, following which Yeddyurappa was sworn in as the 23rd Chief Minister of Karnataka. It also asked BSY to produce before it the letters he wrote to the state's Governor claiming support of MLAs for forming the government. 

The matter will be taken up by a top court bench on Friday.

The three-judge wants to vet the contents of the letters - basically to check whether the Governor’s decision to invite Yeddyurappa was an informed one.

The top court bench is also likely to get into the issue of the 15 days time given by the Governor to Yeddyurappa to prove his majority on the floor of the house. The Congress-JD(S) combine has argued that the long window will be misused by BJP to trigger defections from rival parties and engineer a majority in the assembly.

Results of the Karnataka Assembly polls announced on May 15 showed that the BJP had won 104 seats, emerging as the single largest party, while the Congress and JD(S) bagged 78 and 38 seats, respectively.

In a turn of events, the JD(S) and Congress forge a post-poll alliance and got the support of one Independent MLA, taking their collective number to 117.

While the BJP argued that they were the single largest party to be invited first by the Governor, the JD(S) and Congress said that 112 is the majority and Congress-JD(S) combined is at 117. 

The Supreme Court will hear the matter again on Friday at 10.30 am. Responding to which, Kumaraswamy said he is not worried about the apex court decision as they will show their strength in assembly.

"We are not bothered about the Supreme Court judgement tomorrow. We have to show our strength only on the floor of the house. We are taking care (of MLAs) for that," he said.

"All political leaders in the entire country are now watching the actions taken by the central government - how they are misusing the office. All the leaders have decided that to protest against the decision that was unconstitutional," he added.

"On Friday, in several places in the country protest rallies will be organised spontaneously by the people," he added.

(With Agency inputs)