The lurking fear of a repeat of “Operation Kamala” by the BJP has prolonged ‘resort politics’ in Karnataka, with the Congress and JD(S) MLAs remaining confined to hotels, a day ahead of the trust vote. Ever since the electorate delivered a fractured verdict in the Assembly polls on May 15, it has been a sequestered existence for them. Cloistered at a luxurious resort and hotel for the last nine days since political turmoil hit the state, the lawmakers are cooling their heels away from their families and eagerly waiting for their ordeal to end.
There were reports that these MLAs did not even have access to telephone so they could keep in touch with their families, but the claim was rebutted by both Congress and JD (S) leaders. Reports said these “restless, homesick” legislators pleaded to be allowed to go home even for a day, but their request was turned down. Though nobody could vouch for the authenticity of these claims, the MLAs have been kept away from media glare.
As no political party or a pre-poll alliance secured a clear majority, the Congress and JD(S) came together and H D Kumaraswamy, the leader of the coalition, was sworn in as the chief minister yesterday. Kumaraswamy will seek a confidence vote tomorrow which he is widely expected to win.
However, taking no chances, the Congress has lodged itsMLAs at the Hilton Embassy Golflinks at Domlur, while their JD(S) counterparts are staying at Prestige Golfshire Resort off Devanahallion the outskirts of Bengaluru city. “Our MLAs will be in the resort till the floor test is over. They will then be free to unite with their families,” said a Congress leader who did not wish to be identified.
“There is a wrong impression that our MLAs are confined. If this is confinement, then everybody would wish to be like them. People are forgetting that they are in the top luxury resort, which ordinary people cannot afford,” he said. He also rubbished claims that their mobile phones have been seized to ensure they have no contact with the outside world. “They have their phones with them and they are talking to their families.
Some people are spreading rumours to ensure that the new government fails the floor test,” he said. The JD(S) too rubbished the claim that its MLAs were in confinement, with no contact with the world beyond the hotel premises. Its media cell in-charge Sadananda said, “Our MLAs will go back to their constituencies once the floor test is over. Nobody has taken away their mobile phones. They are freely talking to their family members.”
Exercising great caution, the MLAs of the two parties were brought to the swearing-in ceremony in buses and herded back soon thereafter despite the BJP having boycotted the event. The term “Operation Kamala” or “Operation Lotus” was coined in 2008, when the BJP state chief B S Yeddyurappa took over as the chief minister.
The party was short of three MLAs for a simple majority. As part of “Operation Kamala”, named after the BJP’s election symbol lotus, some Congress and JD(S) MLAs were persuaded to join the saffron party, relinquish their membership of the Assembly, and recontest elections.
Their resignations brought down the numbers required for a victory during the trust vote, which Yeddyurappa won. When Yeddyurappa was sworn in as chief minister this time in similar circumstances, Kumaraswamy had claimed the BJP was trying an “Operation Kamala” redux. Some Congress MLAs claimed they received calls from BJP leaders asking them to break ranks and support Yeddyurappa.
BJP president Amit Shah had taunted the Congress for keeping its MLAs “locked up in hotel rooms”, claiming the coalition would lose majority “even now” if they are released. In his emotional speech before resigning as chief minister, Yeddyurappa had taken a swipe at the Congress-JD(S) coalition, saying it had kept its MLAs in “captivity”.
“You kept MLAs in captivity. The condition of these MLAs is so pitiable that they cannot even speak to their families on phone,” he had said before stepping down on May 19. “Today, their families would be a bit happy as they are seeing them (on TV),” Yeddyurappa had said, little knowing that their agony was not over yet.