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Yeddy rebels go, govt safe

Bangalore, Jan. 29: The resignations of 12 Karnataka BJP MLAs loyal to breakaway leader B.S. Yeddyurappa were accepted tonight, but the party’s government appeared safe for now as the majority mark came down with their exit.

Speaker K.G. Bopaiah’s acceptance of the resignations capped a day of drama that saw him initially delay a decision citing a party petition saying the rebels should be disqualified. Bopaiah is also learnt to have told the MLAs this morning that he needed to consult Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.

Late this evening, the Speaker, who was seeking legal advice through the day, was learnt to have been told by experts that the government headed by chief minister Jagadish Shettar would not be harmed if the resignations were accepted.

After the 12 resignations, the House strength is down to 210. The BJP now has 106 members, including the Speaker, and enjoys the support of an Independent MLA, textiles minister Varthur Prakash. This means the government enjoys a slender majority of two seats.

In all, 13 MLAs — including three ministers — had put in their papers but the letter of one of the legislators, Vittala Katakadonda, was not accepted because of “technical reasons,” according to sources in Bopaiah’s office who didn’t disclose the details.

Besides the 12 MLAs, the BJP has lost Yeddyurappa himself and one of his loyalists, Haladi Srinivasa Shetty, over the past two months.

With the latest batch of resignations threatening the government, the BJP had mounted a last-ditch rescue attempt. The disqualification plea against the rebels, filed yesterday by two other party legislators, was seen as part of the plan.

The petitioners had complained to the Speaker that the rebel MLAs had no business to be present at the launch of Yeddyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) last month and, therefore, should be disqualified.

The event was held on December 9 in Haveri, a hub of the politically influential Lingayat caste to which Yeddyurappa belongs.

Earlier in the day, after Bopaiah refused to accept the resignations citing the disqualification petition against all but one of the rebels, they accused the ruling party of buying time to save the Shettar government.

Several of them protested outside the Speaker’s chamber demanding their resignations be accepted. The acceptance came within hours of the protest, during which the rebel MLAs threatened to demonstrate through the night if their demand wasn’t met.

But a close associate of Yeddyurappa suggested that the game wasn’t over yet. “In the next three or four days, some more of our people will quit,” he said.

If that happens, it could endanger the government unless the BJP receives support from several other Independents.