With rebel MLA M.T.B. Nagaraj heading to Mumbai on Sunday after talks to mollify him appeared to have failed, Congress leaders in Karnataka expressed confidence that he has gone to bring back another disgruntled MLA.
Leaders of the Congress-JD (S) coalition held negotiations with Mr. Nagaraj on Saturday in a bid to woo him back to save the 13-month old H D Kumaraswamy-led government that is on the brink of collapse.
However, the Hoskote MLA had maintained he intended to take a final decision on the withdrawal of his resignation after talks with Chikkaballapura MLA K Sudhakar, who is camping in Mumbai along with other dissident legislators.
Mr. Nagaraj and Mr. Sudhakar had submitted resignation together to Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar on July 10.
According to sources, Mr. Nagaraj headed to Mumbai to try to bring back Mr. Sudhakar.
Visuals of Mr. Nagaraj boarding a chartered flight also surfaced on local news channels.
Meanwhile, Congress MLA and former minister H K Patil said, “Nagaraj must have learnt that Sudhakar is in Mumbai and I feel he has gone there to bring him back.”
The Gadag Congress MLA was talking to reporters outside the residence of another sulking Congress MLA Ramalinga Reddy.
Referring to Nagaraj’s statement on Saturday, Mr. Patil said the Hoskote MLA had not only promised to remain in the Congress but also agreed to persuade his close friend Mr. Sudhakar to come back to the party fold.
Mr. Patil and Congress working president Eshwar Khandre have been tasked with persuading Mr. Reddy to withdraw his resignation.
Before leaving for Mumbai, Mr. Nagaraj told reporters, “Sudhakar has switched off his phone, and is not available for the last two days. After pacifying and convincing Mr. Sudhakar, I will try to bring him back. Because we both had resigned together, so we want to be united. I have informed this to Congress leaders.”
Noting that he was still in the Congress, he said leaders, including Mr. Kumaraswamy and CLP leader Siddaramaiah, have asked him to withdraw the resignation.
“I’m also trying for it (withdraw). Only thing is that I have to meet Sudhakar, I haven’t met him. I will meet him, he should be somewhere,” he said, adding “my intention is that we have to withdraw it (resignation) together.”
A day after Mr. Kumaraswamy made a surprise announcement in the Assembly that he would seek a trust vote, marathon meetings were held by coalition leaders, including Mr. Siddaramaiah, Mr. Kumaraswamy and Minister D K Shivakumar, with Mr. Nagaraj.
Asked what he would do if Mr. Sudhakar did not agree to withdraw his resignation, Mr. Nagaraj said, “I will think about it and decide.”
Mr. Nagaraj is among the five rebel Congress MLAs who had moved the Supreme Court on Saturday against the Assembly Speaker not accepting their resignation.
MLAs Anand Singh, K Sudhakar, N Nagaraj (MTB), Munirathna and Roshan Baig have sought impleadment in the already pending application filed by the 10 other rebel MLAs on which hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
The coalition government is on a sticky wicket with 16 MLAs — 13 of the Congress and three of the JD(S) — resigning from their assembly membership. Besides, two independent legislators, who were made ministers recently to provide stability, have quit the cabinet.
The independents — H Nagesh and R Shankar — withdrew support to the coalition government and are now supporting the BJP.
The ruling coalition’s strength in the House is 116 (Congress 78, JD(S) 37 and BSP one), besides the speaker.
With the support of the two independents, the opposition BJP has 107 MLAs in the 224-member House.
If the resignations of the 16 MLAs are accepted, the ruling coalition’s tally will be reduced to 100. The speaker has a vote too.