Two Congress MLAs in Karnataka on Monday sent in their resignations to the assembly Speaker, dealing a double blow to the 13-month old wobbly government led by H D Kumaraswamy.
Hours after Vijayanagara Congress MLA Anand Singh submitted his resignation to Speaker Ramesh Kumar, his party colleague and rebel legislator Ramesh Jarkiholi too sent in his resignation.
The developments amid reports that some more MLAs of the national party were expected to resign soon caused jitters to the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition leaders with another phase of uncertainty looming large over the government's stability.
Chief Minister Kumaraswamy, on private visit to the United States, said he was keeping a tab on the developments while the state Congress attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party, alleging the opposition party was trying to destabilise the government.
State Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao, however, asserted there was no threat to the government and it would complete its term.
The resignations came just two weeks after Kumaraswamy expanded his cabinet on June 14, inducting two Independent MLAs R Shankar and H Nagesh as ministers in an apparent move to give stability to the government, which has been grappling with dissidence.
The developments unfolded with Singh initially saying he submitted his resignation letter at the Speaker's city residence, but Kumar denied it following which the MLA handed over a copy of it to Governor Vajubhai R Vala later.
"It is true that I have submitted my resignation," Singh told reporters emerging from the Raj Bhavan.
The Speaker's office later confirmed receipt of Singh's letter and said action would be taken as per the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the assembly.
Meanwhile, Ramesh Jarkiholi's letter stating that he was resigning 'voluntarily' surfaced and the MLA later confirmed it was he who had sent it to the Speaker.
Speaking to a local TV channel Jarkiholi said, "I have given my resignation today morning, I'm in Mumbai today, I have sent it through fax because Amavasya (new moon day
considered inauspicious in Karnataka) begins tomorrow. I will personally give it (to the Speaker) tomorrow morning."
Asked about his earlier statement that some other MLAs would also resign with him, he said, "Can't tell our plan. Wait, every thing will be clear."
Stunned by the developments, Congress went into a huddle with Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, senior Minister D K Shivakumar, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president Dinesh Gundu Rao rushing to its Legislature Party Leader Siddaramaiah's residence to assess the situation and to initiate damage control measures.
"The BJP is trying to destabilise the government. But there is no threat to government, it is stable and will complete its term. BJP central leaders are misusing power and agencies to put pressure and blackmail some MLAs," Rao told reporters.
He said the reasons for Singh's resignation were not clear to him, and he will try to convince him. "Finally it is left to him."
Kumaraswamy in a tweet said, 'I am observing all the developments in the state from here. BJP is day dreaming of destabilising the state government'.
Following its rout in the Lok Sabha polls and dissidence within the coalition, the ruling combine has been raising apprehensions of attempts by the BJP to destabilise the government, but the saffron party has denied any such move and maintained that the government would fall on its own.
Commenting on the MLAs' resignations, state BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa said it only proved there was 'largescale unease' in the ruling coalition and the government will collapse under its own weight.
He said BJP would explore Constitutional provisions to form a new government in the event of fall of the government.
Singh said he decided to resign over his demands, including creation of a separate Vijayangar district and cancellation of the nod for sale of 3,667 acres of land to JSW Steel in mine-rich Ballari district.
However, he appeared to have not shut the doors fully, saying he would "wait for answers" (from the government to his demands) when asked if he would withdraw the resignation.
Singh also rejected outright the suggestion that he was succumbing to 'Operation Lotus', a strategy adopted by the BJP in 2008 to shore up its numbers in the assembly by making opposition MLAs resign and seek re-election on the saffron party ticket.
Singh is reportedly miffed with Congress leadership over revoking of the suspension of Kampli MLA J N Ganeash, who had allegedly hit him during an alleged brawl at private resort in Bengaluru in January at the height of dissidence in the party.
Speculations are rife that Singh, who was a minister in the BJP government and joined Congress ahead of May 2018 assembly polls, may go back to the saffron party's fold.
Jarkiholi has been hobnobbing with the BJP for some time now and had threatened he along with other MLAs would soon resign enmasse from the Congress after LoK Sabha poll results.
He is among the MLAs against whom Congress has petitioned the assembly Speaker seeking their disqualification under the anti-defection law for not attending crucial Congress Legislature Party meetings and the budget session of the assembly initially.
Jarkiholi, who was miffed over being dropped from the ministry and Congress' handling of his turf war in Belagavi with D K Shivakumar, also did not campaign for Congress candidates during the Lok Sabha polls and even stayed away from Rahul Gandhi's events.
His brother and state Forest Minister Satish Jarkiholi said, "For last six months he (Ramesh) has been speaking about it (resigning), there is no need to be surprised about it. There is no use of convincing him (to stay back), it's his personal decision."
The ruling coalition strength in the 224-member assembly stands at 118 (Congress 78, JD-S 37, Bahujan Samaj Party 1 and Independents-2), besides the Speaker.
The BJP has 105 MLAs.