In Karnataka politics, there is Shankar. And then there is Nagaraj.
Former Karnataka Municipal Administration minister R Shankar, also referred to as `Pendulum’ Shankar for switching between the BJP and the Congress-JD(S) seven times between May 2018 and July 2019, has got competition. His erstwhile cabinet colleague in charge of Housing portfolio, MTB Nagaraj returned to the rebel camp in Mumbai, a day after he indicated that he will stay with the Congress.
Last week, Nagaraj was among the 13 Congress legislators who resigned, plunging the Karnataka government into crisis mode. On Saturday, both Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar met him and reportedly convinced him not to jump ship.
“The situation was such that we submitted our resignations but now DK Shivakumar and others came and requested us to withdraw our resignations. After all, we have spent all our life in the Congress,” Hoskote MLA Nagaraj had said then.
Apart from staying back, he reportedly also promised the Congress leaders that he will try and bring back Chikballapur MLA Sudhakar Rao from the rebel camp. This made the alliance confident that it will be able to salvage the situation.
The Congress had spoken too soon because on Sunday, Nagaraj flew the nest once again. He returned to Mumbai on a chartered plane and sang a different tune.
“I had said I would try to convince Sudhakar Rao to take back his resignation and that I would do so only if he agreed first. There is no question of me taking back my resignation,” he said.
A livid Shivakumar accused the BJP of engineering defections, pointing to the presence of BJP Karnataka unit chief BS Yeddyurappa’s secretary Santosh’s presence near the aircraft that Nagaraj took to Mumbai. He also claimed senior BJP leader R Ashok was seen with Nagaraj at the old Bengaluru airport.
“BJP had claimed it was not involved. Its leaders should admit they are thirsty for power and are behind this operation,” alleged Shivakumar.
Over the weekend, pictures of Nagaraj’s palatial house had been seen as a pointer to the kind of leaders who were holding governance in Karnataka to ransom. In April, Nagaraj had hit the headlines for performing the Naagin dance during the election campaign.
Even as the Supreme court will hear the case on Tuesday, Speaker Ramesh Kumar has to decide on the resignations. Chief minister HD Kumaraswamy has said he will take a trust vote this week. The strength of the Karnataka assembly will fall to 209 from 224 if the 16 resignations are accepted. With 105 the magic figure then, the coalition will fall short as it will have only 101 MLAs. The BJP has 105 legislators on its side.